Jerry Lovelace of Lindon, Utah is being charged with multiple white collar felonies following allegations of fraud in the tens of thousands. Lovelace allegedly scammed his former neighbor in the town of Orem into investing approximately $43,000 in a non-existent “business opportunity.” Local authorities were tipped off to suspicious activity after a victim of the alleged scheme came forward to complain about delays around the “product.” Now, Lovelace is facing one count of communications fraud, and two counts of forgery. How does Utah define white collar crimes, and what could happen to Lovelace if he is convicted?
Lindon Man Charged with Multiple Fraud Schemes
A fire is every homeowner’s worst nightmare. But an effective fire suppression system could save your home from damage or even total destruction.
If you could invest in a company selling such a system, would you be interested?
One unidentified Orem man was. When he was approached about an exciting new business by 55-year-old Jerry Lovelace in 2010, he agreed to funnel money into the company, thinking it was a legitimate financial opportunity. Instead, he was gradually defrauded out of $43,000 over the next three years, amounting to a weekly loss of approximately $275, or a daily loss of about $40.
It didn’t initially occur to the victim that he could have been exactly that: a victim of fraud. He had been shown papers and documents, and knew exactly how the product was supposed to work: it would suck water from its owner’s swimming pool, which would then be sprayed onto the burning house.
But after becoming exasperated with endless delays, he finally decided to contact California’s Orange County Fire Authority to confirm whether it had, in fact, invested in Lovelace’s “P.A.S.S.” fire suppression system. (The origins of the P.A.S.S. acronym are unknown to Orem police officers at this time.) After the Fire Authority denied any familiarity with P.A.S.S., local law enforcement authorities became involved — and stumbled on a trail of breadcrumbs.
Once Orem detectives began looking into Lovelace’s background, they discovered a checkered history. Evidently, the Draper Police Department had previously opened its own investigation into Lovelace, with records showing he had been charged with second degree felony theft in 3rd District Court in June. In that instance, Lovelace had allegedly scammed a food storage company he was employed with, falsely stating he had made nearly $62,000 worth of sales to various schools and hospitals between April of 2012 and September of 2013.
Lovelace’s second degree theft charges can be traced back to Title 76, Chapter 6, Section 412 (76-6-412) of the Utah legislature, which states, “Theft of property and services as provided in this chapter is punishable as a second degree felony if the value of the property or services is or exceeds $5,000.”
Lovelace had formerly been out on bail; but now, he is being held at Utah County Jail, this time without bail, while the new charges are investigated.
What Are the Penalties for Fraud and Forgery in Utah?
“Lying, cheating, and stealing. That’s white-collar crime in a nutshell,” says the FBI’s website. “It’s not a victimless crime,” the site adds. “A single scam can destroy a company, devastate families by wiping out their life savings, or cost investors billions of dollars.”
Unfortunately for alleged offenders, Utah’s criminal justice system takes a similar view of this family of non-violent, financial crimes. Many of these “white collar crimes,” so named by sociologist Edwin Sutherland back in 1939, have the potential to be graded as felonies in Utah. The forgery and communications fraud charges in Lovelace’s case are no exception.
Forgery has a fairly obvious connotation, but what about “communications fraud”? According to 76-10-1801, these charges apply to:
Any person who has devised any scheme or artifice to defraud another or to obtain from another money, property, or anything of value by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, promises, or material omissions, and who communicates directly or indirectly with any person by any means for the purpose of executing or concealing the scheme or artifice…
In simpler terms, if Person A receives “money, property, or anything of value” from Person B by way of fraud, then Person A may be found guilty of committing this offense. (Fraud is different from other forms of theft in that fraud specifically involves a misrepresentation of fact. For example, if a person is mugged, while the mugger did steal property, the mugger did not misrepresent any information, meaning it would not be considered fraud.)
While communications fraud is charged as a misdemeanor when the property value in question is less than $1,500, the considerably greater value associated with Lovelace’s case would place the charges into the category of second degree felony (value meeting or exceeding $5,000). In Utah, second degree felonies can be penalized with up to 15 years in prison, as well as a $10,000 fine.
Shifting over to forgery, which is addressed by 76-6-501, an alleged offender may be found guilty if “with purpose to defraud anyone,” the person:
- Changes a written document without the author’s permission.
- Pretends to act on behalf of another party, which may or may not actually exist.
If the person “makes, completes, executes, authenticates, issues, transfers, publishes, or utters any writing” in a fraudulent manner, he or she may be guilty of committing forgery.
It’s very important to point out that, unlike communications fraud, forgery is always a felony in Utah, and can be charged in either the second or third degree. The Utah penalties for a third degree felony include up to five years in prison, in addition to $5,000 in restitution.
If you have been charged with a forgery, fraud, or other white collar crimes such as embezzlement or money laundering, the repercussions could dramatically alter the rest of your life. During this difficult time, you deserve the support of an experienced attorney. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation, call Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson at (801) 758-2287, or contact us online today.