SALT LAKE CITY — Federal prosecutors say a Stansbury Park man hornswoggled neighbors, relatives and fellow churchgoers into investing thousands of dollars in his fake companies from 2013 to 2017.
Ronald Wayne Leavitt, 61, was charged in federal court in Salt Lake City Wednesday with felonies wire fraud and money laundering.
He persuaded people close to him to pour money into ventures that included a California real-estate project, a high-end development in Moab called "Hidden Mesa" and a sugar-substitute startup, promising a triple return on investment, charges state.
He "did not use the funds to further any of the ventures and instead spent them on personal and extravagant expenditures," prosecutors allege.
Leavitt wooed investors with lies that he had limousines, owned million-dollar properties, donated heavily to his church and invested his own money in ventures, charges state.3 comments on this story
When investors sought repayment, Leavitt said the money was locked into investment and he would try to repay them later but spent most of it, prosecutors allege, and borrowed $100,000 from his sister to placate two investors.
The FBI and IRS were investigating, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah said in a statement.
No court date has been set.
If convicted, Leavitt faces 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the wire-fraud count; 10 years in prison and an equal fine for money laundering.
A message left at a number believed to be his was not immediately returned. His attorney Jamie Thomas did not return a message and email late Wednesday.