ROOSEVELT The Ute Tribe has filed a civil lawsuit against its former financial adviser, claiming that he defrauded the tribe and its members.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, names John P. Jurrius, the Jurrius Group and the Jurrius Ogle Group as defendants. In court records, attorneys for the tribe claim Jurrius and his associates "wrongfully and fraudulently" claimed an interest in the tribe's energy businesses: Ute Energy Holdings and Ute Energy.
"Jurrius used (his) position as our adviser, with full access to our books and records, to fraudulently claim assets and revenue that clearly belong to the tribe," said Ute Tribe Business Committee Chairman Curtis R. Cesspooch, in a written statement released after the lawsuit was filed.
"Given the fact that the revenue from the development of these oil and gas resources on our traditional lands is our primary source of income, Jurrius' actions are a direct threat to the tribe's and our families' well-being," said Cesspooch, who ran for office on an anti-Jurrius platform.
The tribe's lawsuit contends that Jurrius and his firms violated the federal Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Colorado common law by assuming an equity position in the tribe's investments and projects without investing the firms' own capital.
Jurrius and his firms also failed to properly notify the tribe of the firms' intentions to exercise their participation option, in violation of their contract with the tribe, the lawsuit said. The complaint also accuses Jurrius and employees of his firms of misrepresenting themselves as licensed investment advisers and charging for those services, and violating their fiduciary duties by "wantonly misrepresenting" their intent.
The lawsuit, which also asserts claims under the Indian Mineral Development Act of 1982, was filed in Colorado because Jurrius' businesses were based there.
The tribe is seeking to have the court force Jurrius and his firms to give up their interests in tribal businesses and repay the Ute people for any "ill-gotten monies or profits" from dealings deemed by a judge to be "unlawful or fraudulent." The lawsuit also seeks punitive damages.
The Ute Tribe Business Committee accepted Jurrius' verbal offer to resign during an August 2007 presentation he made to the tribal membership. The move was unpopular with some people on the Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation who still view Jurrius as their financial savior who refilled the tribe's coffers after years of deficits.
Jurrius said this past week that he had yet to be served with a copy the tribe's complaint.
"Because I haven't been served, I really can't comment," Jurrius told the Deseret News. "I'd like to see the complaint, and then I'd be more than happy to talk."Jurrius spoke from the Salt Lake City office of his latest venture, Native American Resource Partners, which has the stated purpose of helping American Indian tribes develop their oil, gas, and mineral resources.
Contributing: Lezlee E. Whiting