PROVO A former attorney, real-estate agent and Eagle Mountain mayoral candidate was sent to prison Thursday for mortgage fraud, after being scolded by a judge for breaking rules he should have been best at following.
"The real-estate market depends upon the credibility and the reliability of the people involved," Judge James Taylor told Richard Culbertson at sentencing Thursday morning in 4th District Court. "This kind of a crime, besides the fact that tremendous amounts of money were taken, is harmful to the market, and it is compounded because of your knowledge, your particular training."
Culbertson, who has since given up his real-estate license and is on probation with the Utah Bar, racked up more than $1.1 million in loans through falsifying incomes, forging names and even using his daughter's personal information rather than his own.
After the scolding, Taylor sent Culbertson to prison on four concurrent terms of one to 15 years for second-degree felony charges of communication fraud and pattern of unlawful activity.
"It's a severe case, a significant case and one that has been a trend that we've seen right now," said Neal Gunnarson, assistant Utah attorney general. "With his knowledge, he knew darn well what he was doing."
Culbertson was approached by investigators last July about the allegations and was quick to admit fault and give up his real-estate license, said defense attorney Greg Skordas. With that, Skordas asked for jail time and probation to start paying back the hefty restitution.
"What happened was a huge mistake," Culbertson said Thursday. "By not using my training and skills to really see through something, I jumped in. I did wrong. I profited from it. I told them I took money, used it for personal uses. I'm here to make amends."
Culbertson's wife, Kathleen Culbertson, was also charged and pled guilty to misdemeanors of securities fraud and racketeering based on her involvement with the scheme. She pocketed $23,000.
Taylor told her to report Monday to the Utah County Jail to serve her 60 days, plus spend two years probation.
Kathleen Culbertson didn't speak, but Richard Culbertson asked the judge for leniency, stating that two children at home, ages 13 and 15, still need parents. Skordas even proposed the idea of staggered commitments to allow one parent to be in the home.
However, the couple prepared for the worst coming into the hearing, Skordas said, and have family and friends taking care of the children, one of whom has juvenile diabetes.
Although restitution is more than $1.1 million, that's assuming the two homes that used the loans aren't sold for anything, Skordas said.The homes are expected to sell for at least $900,000 together, thus decreasing the restitution amount. If the homes aren't sold, the Culbertsons remain responsible for the total restitution, Taylor said.