Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
FILE - Convicted fraudster Rick Koerber is disputing the number of victims and their financial losses the government used to recommend he serve 20 years in prison.

SALT LAKE CITY — Convicted fraudster Rick Koerber is disputing the number of victims and their financial losses the government used to recommend he serve 20 years in prison.

A federal judge has agreed to consider an evidentiary hearing on the issue and postponed the Utah real estate magnate's sentencing scheduled for May 13. The U.S. Attorney's Office opposes the "unnecessary" hearing and any further delay in the case.

After nine years of court wrangling, including a dismissal and a mistrial, a jury last fall found Koerber guilty of 15 counts of wire fraud, fraud in the offer and sale of securities and money laundering. Prosecutors say investors lost a total of $45.2 million in the Ponzi scheme.

Based on that figure, an estimated 600 victims and other factors, prosecutors say Koerber should spend 20 years behind bars under federal sentencing guidelines.

But Koerber's federal public defender, Kathryn Nester, argues the government overstates the seriousness of the offenses and exaggerates the number of victims.

Koerber wants a hearing to show the losses were less than half the amount, and that alone would reduce the sentencing range to no more than 21 months to 27 months. The defense also contends there were only 38 "front line investors" who lost money and many of the victims identified by the government didn't suffer any losses.

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Prosecutors oppose holding an evidentiary hearing, noting Koerber's sentencing has been postponed twice in the past. They contend that he "is in error" to claim the need for a hearing to resolve disputes over the financial losses and number of victims.

"And, in what has been a pattern in Koerber’s approach to this case, it promises to further delay Koerber’s eventual sentencing for months," prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutor says Koerber has had eight months to provide contrary numbers but has not done so.