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Man accused of operating Ponzi scheme gets trial date

Published March 28, 2014 9:55 pm

Courts • June date set to consider charges against real estate guru Rick Koerber.
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Five years after he was accused of running a giant Ponzi scheme, real-estate investment guru Rick Koerber is to get his day in court.

A federal judge on Friday scheduled a trial for Koerber on 18 fraud-related charges to begin on June 13.

Koerber has repeatedly declared his innocence, and did so again Friday before the hearing where U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups set the date for jury selection to begin for what is projected to be a six-week trial.

Koerber first was indicted in May 2009, accused of running a Ponzi scheme in which he allegedly used half of the $100 million he took in to pay back to investors or lenders as interest or principal.

Koerber's companies, generally known as FranklinSquires Cos., were not profitable and his alleged promises of returns of up to 10 percent a month came from other investors or lenders, the indictment says.

Koerber first started his Provo-based operation as a real estate investment education company in the early 2000s, putting on expensive seminars to teach others about his so-called "equity milling" strategy. But about mid-decade, he and other associates branched out and began taking in investment or hard-money loans that they then lent to others for real-estate deals. The operation crashed in about mid-2007 as the real estate bubble was beginning to bust.

Government prosecutors have been fiercely battled in the case by Koerber's attorney, Marcus Mumford, who has succeeded in getting some of the evidence excluded from trial and two counts of the indictment dismissed.

Friday's hearing was no exception, with Mumford attacking the government's handling of the case.

"The government has [been responsible for] repeated delays if not outright misconduct in how they have conducted this case," Mumford told Waddoups.

Prosecutors have been pushing for a trial for some time and Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara Bearnson denied the allegation they were stalling.

"We're not here to delay the matter," she said.

Waddoups had previously ruled that prosecutors had violated rules of professional conduct, a federal law and the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution when they allowed federal agents to interview Koerber without contacting his attorney first. The U.S. Attorney's Office contends it believed Koerber was not represented by an attorney at that time.

Much of Friday's hearing centered around the fallout from that ruling and how to proceed in determining what evidence would not be allowed at trial as a result.

Waddoups set an April deadline for Mumford to file a brief on that issue and others.