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Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
FILE - Alan McKee, left, and Gary Anderson, back right, listen to testimony during a preliminary hearing on Thursday, June 2, 2016, at the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY — A once lauded Utah County businessman has pleaded guilty in two separate fraud schemes, including one where he impersonated top LDS officials to lure investors.

In the first case, where he is accused of bilking an out-of-state construction company of thousands of dollars for an industrial development he claimed was backed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Alan Dean McKee pleaded guilty Friday to a pattern of unlawful activity, a second-degree felony, as part of deal with prosecutors.

Three counts of communications fraud, a second-degree felony, were dismissed in exchange for his plea.

In the second case, McKee admitted to theft, a second-degree felony, for contracting with two companies to help him remove and recycle materials from a 14-mile stretch of railroad that he didn't own. An additional charge of second-degree felony charge of communications fraud was dismissed.

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 28. McKee faces a potential sentence of one to 15 years in prison for each of the two charges.

McKee, 56, of Benjamin, was once praised for his business acumen and his mining company, Ophir Minerals and Aggregate LLC, was named Utah County Business of the Year. Now McKee is being held without bail in the Salt Lake County Jail after prosecutors argued he poses a financial risk to the community.

Former Utah County Commissioner Gary Jay Anderson wis accused alongside McKee in the first case. The case against him is ongoing and he is set to appear for a scheduling conference on Oct. 28. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Anderson's attorney, Nathan Crane, has claimed the former commissioner was also duped by McKee, investing $110,000 from his own retirement funds with the businessman.

Through 2015, Anderson received a monthly consultant fee of $10,000 as well as "other benefits" from McKee, according to court documents.

McKee became involved with the possible large-scale industrial development near Elberta, Utah County, in 2012. Early the next year he met with Minnesota-based Ames Construction and the Suburban Land Reserve, a real estate development arm of the LDS Church.

However, when the Suburban Land Reserve declined to sign on to the project later that year, McKee continued to work with Ames board member Mark Brennan as if the development was getting underway and was backed by the LDS Church, according to plea documents filed Friday. Through fall 2015, McKee used text messages, emails and phone calls to pose as Eric Peling, a supposed employee of the Suburban Land Reserve.

"Through these communications, Brennan was led to believe that Gary Stevenson, the presiding bishop of the LDS Church, other high-ranking church officials, and high-ranking state officials such as the governor of Utah were assisting McKee to make sure the project moved forward," court documents state.

"Due to these communications, Mark Brennan and Ames Construction paid McKee approximately $380,731 for services McKee claimed to be providing on behalf of the Elberta project. McKee instead used some of the funds for personal use," according to the plea.

It was Anderson who, under McKee's instruction, called Brennan posing as Bishop Stevenson, according to court documents. Anderson began working for McKee as a consultant after leaving office, the plea document states, and emailed Brennan at McKee's request telling him he was meeting with LDS officials about the project.

In addition to the fraudulent development, McKee told Brennan he could sell him discounted farm equipment from an LDS Church-owned welfare farm. McKee collected $132,406 from Brennan "when in fact no such equipment existed. McKee instead used the funds for personal and other uses," court documents state.

McKee told a similar story to Chet Olsen, a fellow Benjamin resident, saying he could purchase discounted farm equipment through a fictional company called Associated Land Brokers through a bankruptcy sale.

As Olsen deposited money in McKee's account for the equipment based on a list of prices McKee provided, McKee had Anderson call Olsen posing as the supposed president of the company and assure him the equipment was coming, court documents state. That included a call in August 2015 when Anderson instructed Olsen he needed to pay an additional $10,000 for taxes and fees, according to the plea.

Over eight months, Olsen paid McKee $755,740, according to court documents.

Even as he was facing charges in the first case, prosecutors say McKee was continuing a second scheme he began in August 2015.

In the plea, McKee admitted to contracting with Utah-based R&R Equipment to remove 14 miles of railroad from the Tintic Rail Line near Elberta, claiming to own the section that actually belonged entirely to Union Pacific Railroad. The contract would pay $130,000 to McKee as the line was removed.

R&R brought on another company, Green Box Recycling, to help remove the ties, track and other materials from the line. The removed rail was in turn sold to Utah Fabrication, the plea states. The process continued until May 2016 when Union Pacific discovered the seven miles of track that had been removed.

The removed track was valued at $175,000. At the time the project was halted, $127,784 was still owed to Utah Fabrication, according to court documents. Representatives from R&R and Green Box testified at a hearing in August that they were left with outstanding contracts to sell the materials collected from the rail line.

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