SALT LAKE CITY — A federal jury in New York has convicted a former Salt Lake City councilman and his Illinois business partner of stealing $2.5 million from an aerospace company in an investment scheme.
Keith Eric Jergensen, 58, of Salt Lake City, and Debashis Ghosh, 53, of Chicago, were found guilty Wednesday of conspiring to defraud Laurentian Aerospace Corp. following a seven-day trial in federal court in Syracuse.
Jergensen served on the Salt Lake City Council from 2002-10 and did not seek a third term.
The two men were co-CEOs in Chicago-based Verdant Capital Group. Laurentian had retained the firm to raise money to build an airplane maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in Plattsburgh, New York.
Laurentian wired $2.5 million to Verdant in December 2010. Despite an agreement to keep the money in a Wells Fargo account, Jergensen and Ghosh started transferring funds out of the account until it was empty, according to federal prosecutors.
The partners used the money to pay Verdant’s employees and contractors and others, including payments to a now-defunct wind turbine company in which Ghosh was a minority owner and Jergensen’s company Contour Composites Inc. in Utah, authorities said.
"Jergensen and Ghosh quickly gained their victims’ trust and just as quickly abused it by taking their money and then lying to them about what had occurred. They strung their victims along for years with false promises that their money would be returned," according to acting U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith in Syracuse.
The victims include a retired Air Force colonel, a former New York City deputy mayor, a retired law firm partner, and several retired executives from the financial and airline industries.
Jergensen and Ghosh each face up to 20 years in prison, two years' probation and a $250,00 fine. They are scheduled to be sentenced in February.