Utah County Jail
Zane Gray

PROVO — Zane Gray was living two lives, according to information provided at a bail hearing Wednesday in 4th District Court.

On one hand, the Lehi fire-alarm salesman was a frequent speaker at Especially for Youth programs, an honest businessman who claimed to be deeply religious and who established a fund for firefighters' families. That side of Gray, who is accused of swindling 10 associates out of more than $2 million, was depicted in five letters written to the court by friends and neighbors.

But his "alternative lifestyle," according to one of the alleged victims, is that of a degenerate gambler who made plans with a "girlfriend on the side" to flee with the money police say he stole.

Prosecutor Jared Perkins attempted to explain the contradiction and why Gray's friends were so shocked by his arrest.

"He was being generous with other people's money," Perkins said. "That's not very difficult to do. I believe we have two Mr. Grays."

One of the alleged victims said in court that he suspects Gray, who is married, may have funneled some ill-gotten gains to a mistress who works for an escort service. The man said he believes Gray "continues to deceive his family and those who have written letters on his behalf."

Perkins said hundreds of thousands of dollars are still unaccounted for.

Gray's attorney, Jennifer Ranson, asked for Gray to be released on his own recognizance on the basis of the letters, but Judge Lynn Davis ordered that his bail remain at $10,000 cash-only.

Gray, 35, is charged with 10 counts of communications fraud, a second-degree felony. He started his residential fire-alarm business, Elite Fire Systems, in Lehi in 2001.

According to a lawsuit filed Jan. 15 by Gray's brother and two other men, Gray approached his brother in 2005 about purchasing fire alarm system contracts. He created an investment arm, R&Z Investments, to buy the contracts and asked his brother to contribute capital, the lawsuit states. The brother invested $280,000.

Gray invited the other two men to invest in 2008, and they kicked in $450,000 and $300,000, according to the lawsuit.

On Jan. 14, Gray's business partner asked one of the men why Gray had not purchased any contracts. The investor pulled R&Z bank records and found fund transfers to Elite Fire Systems.

The business had fallen apart, and Gray had started taking gambling trips to Las Vegas and shuffling money around to try to recoup and hide his losses, police said.

Gray had fled to Canada, and when the men confronted him upon his return on Jan. 15, Gray admitted the fraud, said he had to retrieve some documents from his car and then bolted, according to court papers and Perkins.

They sued Gray the same day and obtained a court-ordered judgment of $1,090,635 on Jan. 25. Gray's house in Lehi was also seized in the lawsuit.

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An undated, handwritten note attached to a summons is included in court papers pertaining to the suit. It simply states: "I, Zane Gray, am guilty."

Police used Gray's cell phone to track him to Wasatch County, where they found him in his car after a suicide attempt. He reportedly left behind a note instructing others to use his life insurance proceeds to care for his children.

Gray later told police he had "robbed Peter to pay Paul," using investor funds to pay off earlier investors while saying he was growing his business.

e-mail: pkoepp@desnews.com