Tags

Share this Episode

Comments 74

  1. A very important topic. I’ve been a tertiary victim of this by being employed by one of the perpetrators of this. I got out as soon as I found out it was a scam. Last I heard my old boss was in prison.

  2. Needed to listen to this right away – not just happening in Utah, but my retired mother (single), living in Saskatchewan Canada, had her entire nest egg, six figures, taken from her by trusting her home teacher. A few months after we started to deal with this mess, realizing what had happened, the church sent out a letter to be read in sacrament meeting regarding ‘fraud schemes and unwise investments’ (Dated 02/27/2008, I have a copy of it).

    Quote from the letter- “We are concerned that some Church members ignore the oft-repeated direction to prepare and live within a budget, avoid consumer debt, and save against a time of need…”

    This made my blood boil! Sure the church has ‘counselled’ regarding such, but my mother was set up and ‘counselled’ to follow his direction/inspiration as a hometeacher! Yes, tears were in his eyes too, she has said. He said he felt ‘inspired by God to be there and direct her regarding her finances’.

    ‘Keith’ was assigned as her ‘hometeacher’ and as such, stole all she had, even asking for rights to the title of her home. According to this article on lds.org https://www.lds.org/ensign/1973/03/the-responsibilities-of-home-teachers?lang=eng
    he did everything a hometeacher should and as a woman she was always taught to listen to her priesthood leader, he is the ‘voice of God’ for her. He bore his testimony, in that he had a ‘burning desire to help her financially’ and it was coming from the Lord Himself.

    Taken from the article a hometeacher must, * Build a relationship of trust between you and your assigned family, *Help serve them with temporal needs and spiritual, sharing your testimony and an inspired message at least monthly, *If there is a need, it is a hometeacher’s responsibility to see it is met, before the Bishop is involved.

    So there it is. Another woman in the church set up for failure at the hands of a patriarchal system that is to ‘protect and bless her’. I blame the church, and I blame Keith. My mother? Yes, she is naive, but in her mind she was following the counsel of an assigned priesthood leader, and as women in the church are taught, the ‘priesthood’ has the ultimate say.

    ‘Keith’ has moved around into the USA and is still an active member today!

    1. Sounds like someone I came across as well. Rooked people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars as he made his way through Edmonton and Calgary before heading to the states. I’m so sorry to hear that your Mother was a victim.

      1. Bryce karl??? From Calgary, Edmonton, Utah, ….
        he is one the biggest scams i’ve ever met. he has left a trail of financially ruined people.
        if anyone ever comes across him or one of his offers stay far away.

        1. So, my husband and I unfortunately came across him and got tangled up in the Teton Air fiasco. What is his status now? Has he been prosecuted?

    2. I should add it was a Ponzi scheme in ‘oil well investments’. Apparently many trusting members invested, with the little investors ‘making’ immediate money while the ‘bigger’ investors lost everything. The ‘little’ guys would tell others ‘wow, made a ton’, getting the attention of others.

      However, if you meet a member of the church named ‘Keith'(older man, bad eyebrows), having lived in Saskatchewan, with a lifetime of experience in ‘oil’…….RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He too did this all without any type of security license.

    3. Wow, that’s horrible, G. I can only imagine the frustration and betrayal you and your mother must feel after such an incident. When I read that instruction regarding the duty of a home teacher, “to serve them with temporal needs and spiritual,” I read that to mean things like making sure they are able to pay the rent and utilities, buy groceries, and put gas in the car, not advise her on what to do with a six-figure nest egg. That home teacher abused an inspired program for his own financial gain. I hope that he is eventually caught and made to answer for his behavior.

  3. “Maybe Mormons are more gullible than other people.” I don’t know if we are more gullible than other people, but we are gullible. =)

    1. It is a sad thing to say that I have always had a rule that my family lives by. 1) Never work for a member of the “Church” 2) never buy or sell something to a “church” member. The reason for these rules was due to the issues that it never works out. One way or another we always get burnt.

    2. Hi. I don’t mean to shutbyou down, but i don’t think Mormons are necessarily more gulible than most. There is something to be said about a culture that teaches absolute trust in authority figures. It’s hard to teach a standard and then tell people not to practice it on a day to day basis in their lives even in non religious contexts. Especially when they are taught that their religion supercedes all other concerns.

  4. Is it true that Utah is the only state in the Union with two FBI white collar crime investigation offices? I think I heard Shawn McCraney claim that once years ago. It’s one of those claims that seems unbelievable, not because Utah isn’t corrupt, but because other states are so large (think NY city, for example). I’d be curious to know the answer to that question since it’s bugged me ever since I heard it. Sorry I didn’t get it in in time for the interview.

  5. While as a business undergraduate at BYU in the early 1980’s I was invited to attend a BYU conference where this was the topic. They gave examples similar to what Mark Pugsley gave in this podcast. They were warning everyone about these type of scams.

    I remember watching the news at that time about a diamond scam. As I recall it involved people in the church and a lot of money was taken from a small Utah town.

    I recall them mentioning that people feel that if they are righteous and pay their tithing etc, they deserve the outsized returns that are beyond what can normally be had in the market.

    I guess there is one born every minute.

  6. Two examples of both victims and perpetrators in my family:
    1.) One of my family members was defrauded of $250K by his stake president. There were never any repercussions in the church for the stake president as a result of his being convicted in court for his dishonest conduct. Using his position of authority as stake president, he defrauded others in the church as well.
    2.) Another family member (also strong in the church, in a leadership position) was convicted and served time for investment fraud in a Ponzi scheme to the tune of about 8 million. He maintains his innocence to this day, and friends/family in the church have stood fast with him. It was the non-members who took him to court and easily prevailed (Federal case) due to the aggregious nature of fraud.

    The cognitive dissonance which must be maintained by the most bright and intelligent LDS members severely hamstrings their critical judgement and warps their ethics. The feeling that one is manifestly entitled to earthly riches as a result of being among the valiant, the chosen, clouds their judgement.

    I would be extra cautious when doing business with anyone who is a member of the LDS church.

  7. Don’t forget about Mormon frauds ouside of Utah

    Anthony Vassallo and Ken Kenitzer, Two Mormons in California who ran an 80 million dollar scam

    http://www.pleasantonweekly.com/news/2009/03/12/update-sec-alleges-40m-ponzi-scheme-involving-pleasanton-businessman

    Darren Palmer, Idaho Bishop Fleeces his Ward

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/27/us/27ponzi.html

    Shawn Merriman, Bishop from Aurora Colorado, 15 million scam again ripped off members of his ward

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/47881681

    Julius Blackwelder, Bishop from Connecticut who got 1.5 million from his ward

    http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Mormon-bishop-gets-prison-for-Ponzi-scheme-4628550.php

    Three more from Utah, California and Mass.

    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705396722/California-man-used-Mormon-leadership-position-in-investment-fraud-scheme-SEC-says.html?pg=all

    Daniel Hunter, Californian

    http://www.ocweekly.com/news/socal-white-collar-crook-wins-federal-prison-trip-6468686

  8. Disappointed that you did not mention Paul H. Dunn and his son-in-law, Jeril Wingett. Jeril, after all, had the ordinance of “his calling an election made sure.”

    1. Paul Dunn was also affiliated with Grant Affleck and Wade B. Cook and he was a fraud himself. Read “Lying For The Lord” by Lynn Packer

      1. My recollection is that he criticized your “coverage” of the SSM -children policy. He claimed to have met with Thomas Monson and said he is not suffering with dementia and has full faculties. And he pretended to not know how to say your last name which I thought was pretty obviously false and funny but guess that saying your last name wrong is SOP for TBM’s discussing you in a way to slight you while simultaneously having to reference you. In pure Rick fashion it was name dropping and posing, saying that he had been called on “important” business to Salt Lake and some kind of “special function” with Monson. Rick seems to be trying to revitalize his radio personality and my feeling is that he potentially sees you as an opponent that he can attack to gain listners/followers. For that reason I honestly kind of hate to bring it up since it just gives him more notoriety which I don’t want to do. No doubt, he’ll read this (on a podcast he surely never visits) and have to come in here and have to defend his honor.

        What is funny and disturbing is that if the story is true, Monson is calling Rick to meet with him only a few years after Ricks Ponzi activity presumably caused the church to release the announcements on money and investments. My guess is that he’s been forgiven by the church and given his golden ticket. Why not? They surely saw some of that 100 million.

        What might be even more fascinating to readers here is that I have good reason to believe that Rick was the subject of a Daughters of Mormonism podcast called “She Wasn’t a Wife For Me” where former wife Michelle spills the beans on polygamy in their relationship . I mention this because it makes a meeting of these two even more hysterical, and yet somehow not that surprising.

        http://daughtersofmormonism.blogspot.com/2011/06/episode-17-she-wasnt-wife-for-me.html

        So, Thomas S. Monson is in full use of his mental faculties but meets with former Ponzi ring leader, former polygamy seeker?

    1. Ugh. He is incapable of getting to the point.

      Tl:dr: You are too lowly to understand the handbook. It requires training to grasp it.

      “The following are serious transgressions” that “require a disciplinary counsel” but we aren’t saying they are equivalents. On the other hand, as evidenced in this thread. Stealing millions is perfectly fine but sexual cohabitation requires we kick you out. So I can only assume that loving relationships are much worse in the eyes of god than fraud.

      I also have to bow to him. He’s a master of the subtle ad hominem.

  9. Dean Udy and I are both from Riverside, Utah. He’s a couple of years older than me and both of us went to Utah State. I bought one of the first whole life insurance policies Dean was selling for Connecticut Mutual in about 1963–I think the year he was a senior. He was a ‘business partner’ with Hugh Pinnock as they were both involved in Connecticut Mutual life insurance. I met Pinnock a couple of times when he was a GA and he seemed like a shifty character–as I think was born out in his involvement in the Mark Hofman debacle.

  10. I really enjoyed the discussion about how can people live double lives and want would like to add a thought that relates to both Joseph Smith and current ponzi schemers. I am currently reading the book Quiet by Susan Cain. The book is about being an introvert in an extroverted country. Cain references the observation of cultural historian, Warren Susman that in the mid 1800’s the nation changed from a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality. This struck a chord with me because this is also the time of the restoration and the beginning of the ‘charismatic church leader.’
    Evidence that the cultural change took full effect by the early 1900’s is Dale Carnegie’s personality books which are still widely used today. In a book on public speaking, he suggests ‘truth or lie’ speech giving where you try to have the audience believe your convincing lies as a way to practice becoming a better public speaker.
    If you are in a extroverted country and extroverted church and believe convincing and charismatic speech giving as the spirit speaking to you, you just might follow the brethren’s talks or join a ponzi scheme.

  11. An important, timely conversation, John and Mark. A doctor in our ward invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over several decades with a local real estate investor/developer only to have the the principals end up in jail and the money never materialize. As was described in the interview, the doc just left the money in the pot and was told year-by-year how it was growing until he supposedly had earned over a million dollars. Thanks for nothing. At trial the man’s widow actually testified on behalf of the accused. They were friends and confidants.

    This subject brings to mind 3 Nephi 16:10:

    “And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.”

    Affinity fraud is one more symptom of spiritual rot among we gentiles. The report that priestcraft is flourishing in affluent Alpine, UT is telling. May they not progress to the point of murders!

  12. This was a phenomenal episode! Something that absolutely needed to be adressed in Utah and in Mormon culture but something TSCC will never do because it hurts their image. I was thinking about the phrase “by their fruits ye shall know them” while listening to this, and if you look at the fruits of state heavily influenced by Mormonism you have a state that leads the nation in (their fruits):

    -Affinity fraud
    -Anti-depressant usage
    -Porn usage
    -Teen suicide
    -Highest per capita in plastic surgery
    -One of the leading states in bankruptcy

    However, Utah does lead the nation in cookies being left of neighbors doorsteps with passive aggressive messages about how they are throwing away their salvation.

  13. The first Mormon fraudster was Joseph Smith in Kirtland Ohio. He opened an illegal bank, the Kirtland Safety Society and printed money that quickly lost value, but Smith jumped overboard before it collapsed then fled the state before he could be jailed.

  14. I have relatives who were defrauded by former Mormon bishop Ted Johnson in Virginia. My grandfather was one of his initial investors, and he used that relationship to bring in other investors, as my grandfather was widely respected in the community as being a frugal and smart money manager. Many of the people who invested had little financial literacy but wholeheartedly trusted Johnson (who had been a very charismatic and beloved bishop), my grandfather, and a few other pillars of the community who were early investors.

    During the trial, lawyers introduced Johnson’s personal journal into evidence as this was where he was doing the real bookkeeping (recording whos investments were paying who’s “returns”). Johnson’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued the journal should not be admitted into evidence because it was a religious item and admitting it would jeopardize his religious liberties.

    Also, my grandmother had always said she wanted “Teddy” to conduct her funeral when she died as he had such a way with words and she loved to hear him talk on Sundays at church. She maintained this desire even after he was convicted. (I never knew for sure, but my belief is that as one of the early investors in the scheme, my grandfather at least recouped his money, and may have come out ahead even.) Unfortunately he was unable to conduct her funeral as he began his prison sentence shortly before she died.

    http://www.cftc.gov/PressRoom/PressReleases/pr5567-08

  15. These stories of fraud and deception among the “saints” is fascinating. Trust and faith are destroyed because of the deception individuals and situations.

    Many years back, in the East Millcreek area of Salt Lake City, I witnessed a similar situation. A member of a local bishopric, claimed to be an ‘investment counselor’. He went through the area, asking elderly, widowed individuals to invest and grow their hard earned retirement monies, by allowing him to manage their funds.

    Over the course of 11 years, he sent monthly statements to more than 100 individuals, showing falsified numbers and gains, to his clients.

    It wasn’t until one client needed to cash out her investment, due to hardship, that the scheme tumbled. This client was a ward member, and a legally blind woman, who had owned and run a very humble, small newspaper and gum shop under the steps of the Utah State Capitol bldg. She was a humble individual and worked hard. To watch her fumble daily, trying to do her work while being legally blind, was very touching. When she realized that all she had earned for 20 years was now gone, it was devastating. She died shortly thereafter, feeling very saddened and disillusioned. She was one of many affected by this.

    This counselor in the bishopric, used the money over the years to build a larger, nicer home and drive nicer cars. When he was sentenced, his wife begged the local judge to allow him only 11 months of prison time served in a ‘white collar’ lock up facility, rather than a longer term that would have required him to spend time in the state penitentiary — she was terrified that he’d be raped in prison! It seemed okay that he’d figuratively raped and deceived many in his neighborhood. These were individuals who were vulnerable and trusting. His wife was bitter that neighbors leaked pictures of the couple to the local news stations. She continued to remain bitter that her husband had been caught; rather than being humbled and apologetic. Her husband was excommunicated and served 11 months of lock up time. When he returned, he was quietly reinstated in the Church. The neighborhood was still reeling over the incident.

    The fallout from this incident left the neighborhood with a very weird vibe for a long time. People were less trusting, and remain stunned by the incident. Perhaps it was because of shame and disappointment in their willingness to be so gullible.

    Just when you think nothing will surprise you in life, something comes along that reminds us that yes, we are all human. But these incidents point out a larger issue: that there is a disconnect between principals taught in sunday worship and practice of day-to-day ethics among the “saints”. Compartmentalization is a useful tool. Not surprising.

  16. Super informative, thanks. I’m not Mormon, but I recognize some of these tactics from my own cultural community. It’s even more tricky because for us there are a lot of immigrants, and the language barrier and general lack of understanding of how the US financial system works makes it even easier for these con-artists to prey On people. In general, I think a lack of mixing amongst people outside your cultural group leads to being an easy “mark.” Did not know you could check licensing online. Definitely forwarding that link to family & friends.

    1. This guy Duane Slade is the son in law to a man from Renton Washington that was convicted of the same type of crime, he swindled senior citizens out of their life savings. He spent almost 10 years in prison. Some of Jerry Kings money ended up with with Duane. This is a crime family extraordinaire. The families that were swindled finally recovered $26.00 each from Jerry King after he got out of prison. He stole $12 million, Surprised the IRS never got him for taxes not paid by the thief.

  17. Sherwood Hills resort in Sardine Canyon was endorsed by the Osmonds, and Paul H. Dunn, in the late 70s. The owner was a Mormon from Preston, ID. I don’t remember exactly what kind of deception he used to get people to invest in it, but he did make a big deal of being a good Mormon. I remember my dad saying “If a man goes out of his way in a business deal to let you know that he’s a Mormon, you’d better keep your hand on your wallet.”

  18. Having never lived in Utah before, I was surprised, when we moved to Alpine, Utah, by how popular MLMs were among my ward members. Perhaps this was because we had several owners of Noni, Zango, Gensis Pure etc. living in our ward and they all seemed to being doing very well. I have to admit at one point, I got caught up in their enthusiasm and agreed to go with a friend to a meeting for a new MLM. We were going to get in on “the ground floor”. The majority of the meeting was hype about the pay structure. When they finally got around to the product- a newly discovered fruit drink with healing powers (sound familiar) , I commented that at 100 dollars a bottle it would take 600 dollars of drink a month to feed my family of six. Seemed expensive to me. I had to laugh when I received a phone call from one of the women at the meeting a few days later. She informed me that there was another meeting the next week and in this meeting we needed to emphasis the “business opportunity” over the product. Needless to say I abandoned my hopes of getting rich quick and didn’t go. Several years later I heard on KSL radio about a study done at Harvard Business School on MLMs: 50 percent loss money, 40 percent break even, and only 10 percent actually make money. Seems like an unethical business model to me. Maybe it’s popular with Mormon s because the business model feels familiar: takes a lot of your effort and money and in return you get a fake fraulent product.

    1. Me too! From the mid west…. Moved to Utah for 4 years during college. I didn’t know what MLM was until living there. Couldn’t believe all the crappy dealings going on! It was an eye opener!

  19. I don’t know if it is “fraud” exactly, but some good friends told me of a case where relatives of Orson Scott Card invested in a theater company he started in Utah decades ago. The theater failed and none of the investors ever received their money back.

    Seeing as how Orson wound up doing so well as an author it is interesting that he never felt the need to try and recompense these people who helped him get a start, some of whom became quite poor as the years wore on.

  20. steer clear of Bryce Lee Karl. Mormon guy who is one of the scummiest, slimiest guys I’ve ever met. Canadian, but has spent a lot of time ripping off people in Utah, Idaho, Colorado. He even scammed some NFL players out of a lot money. Currently lives in Canada, but has extradition order from the US.
    Google his name and have fun. the comments sections is where you can find the good stuff.
    Here’s one article.
    http://calgaryherald.com/business/energy/energy-regulator-names-oilman-for-failing-to-comply-with-18-orders

  21. Mark Pugsley’s comment about Joseph’s fraud in the Kirtland Anti-Banking Society scandal reminded me of another, even more successful fraud perpetrated by Joseph, one the Church tries keeping quiet, even today. The mechanics of how Joseph conducted the Three (and Eight) Witness Testimonies aren’t generally known, but key evidence, holographic copies of either testimony, signed by the witnesses have never been published by the church–because those particular documents never existed, except as obvious forgeries at the end of the printer’s manuscript copy. Neither of the two testimonies were composed by the witnesses themselves, but were dictated by Joseph, who also had Oliver Cowdery fill in each of the signatures just in time to have them published at the back end of the Book of Mormon. The case is explained in greater detail in an essay, “Phantom Witnesses Never Lie,” at the website http://www.bookofmormonlit.com. I appreciated your podcast for reminding me how easily faith and trust can be abused.

  22. What about these essential oil MLM’s like “do Terra” and “Essential oils from Livestrong”? I know that the FDA is after them for making unsupstantiated claims. Do you plan to go after them?

  23. Rick Koerber is a special kind of crazy and his ex wife would be an awesome interview, though I doubt she is willing to talk about this since it may get her in legal trouble. The guy is a sociopath with a god complex. He likes to tie his scheme in with libertarian ideas, Cleon Skousen worship, and Ayn Rand stuff. It’s very “philosophies of men…”. Not to mention the fact that he thinks God wants him to practice polygamy and he basically thinks he is the new Joseph Smith. Bring Him on! I’m sure he can’t resist the opportunity to talk about himself for a few hours.

    1. I would also LOVE to hear a podcast with Rick Koerber. He has some really interesting views on extreme capitalism and how it relates to Mormonism.

  24. I suspect that many of the fraud victims prayed and got the answer that they should invest in the fraudulent scheme. Answers to prayers are a enigma to me. I can’t tell if they are real answers or not.

    1. A foundational fraud in Mormondom is duping the membership into interpreting FEELINGS as inspiration from the Holy Ghost aka TRUTH. The Church knows nothing about actual Truth, but has invested huge sums of money and expertise into manipulating FEELINGS through HeartSell tactics. Watch this great video for a brutal expose’ on just how reliable your FEELINGS are as a Truth Detector.

  25. As seen from the Mormon Bunker in Nevada –– GO home

    Behold, another Mormon Moment: Grifters unite, thrust in your sickle and reap and reap some more.

    This latest dust up in my home state, Oregon, with Cliven Bundy and ilk has brought to the fore superior mormon thinking.
    Cliven Bundy and his 14 children have abused the natural resources of our country while breeding an army of The Chosen.
    When confronted by the abuse of overgrazing, excess animals on allotments of public lands, the Bundys’ claim the land belongs to them.
    Yes Grifting is baked into the Mormon Mind-Set –– Given their privileged access to the Afterlife, mormons know the rights afforded the worthy here on earth are deserved.
    Fraud is as fraud does and Mormon Fraud is blessed by Our Heavely Father who got the word second hand from Our Prophet Joseph Smith, The Mormon Music Man.
    What the Hell are Bunker Nevada Mormons doing in Harney County Oregon?
    We Know, the still small voice is involved somehow, and we know it will all be sorted out in the end.

    It boils down to a binary reality of 1’s and 0’s. Either there is one God or there are no gods –– sometimes vacillating between the two numbers, one can become perplexed leading to the that still small voice mumbling repeated phrases.

    It’s true, it’s true

  26. There was A LOT of meat left on the bone after this one… I appreciate the stab at this topic, but I kept waiting for the in-depth connection to Mormonism and it’s doctrines. Is this a cultural matter? Absolutely, but the culture is driven by the doctrine and the expectations of Mormon members created during the practice of the Mormon faith.

    At 7:07 minutes Mark makes this statement “… and these are cultural problems that we will be talking about. None of them really relate to anything doctrinal or anything about the church.”

    In the next breath Mark makes this statement “If the LDS church is truly the one true church on the planet you would think that we would have a much lower incidence of people screwing each other , but the reality is the opposite.”

    These two statements, and the exploration of each of them, are the MEAT of this topic. It was interesting to learn about the various cases of fraud in Utah, but all of that information is on Mark’s website utahsecuritiesfraud.com.

    I’d like to see a panel to discuss these issues:

    – The doctrinal connections in Mormonism between wealth and righteousness
    – The relationship between affinity fraud and Mormon doctrine and Mormon culture of trusting leaders

    There is another hour or two hanging out there on this topic for sure.

      1. Mark thanks for drawing attention to the wonderful Expositor podcast. I listened again not knowing of your good efforts on Prosperity Theology Fraud.
        Your site is great: http://rqn.com/blog/utahsecuritiesfraud/#.Vo1fyumcORc
        For those who haven’t, this is a must listen, thank you,
        http://mormonexpositor.com/85-mormons-and-money-the-prosperity-doctrine/

        Beyond the still small voice: Like Christ, Prophet Joseph Jr. is driven by the same demons drilling their shouts and murmurs into his skull. And, like Jesus, no amount of counseling will help. The myth is the truth. And truth will set you free to explore other truths for the glory of Zion. Mormon Tribals are all about truth so long as prosperity is the product. Remember, Apocalypse is beauty for the chosen.

  27. Not necessarily fraud, but wondering if there might be any recourse against a six-figure state worker who does nothing all day – under protection from his LDS superiors – but tend to matters of the Stake over which he presides?

  28. The sad thing is that this type of fraud happens on a smaller scale. Amway was one of the biggest scams preying on the lower-middle class. Mormons and non-Mormons with little means would spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on conventions, products, and start-up kits. I served as a counselor with an elders’ quorum president (his daddy was also the stake president) who used his position and namesake to promote and recruit for his Amway business.

    I remember other MLM schemes as a kid like Bon-Del Water Filters, the wheat grinders, life insurance, scriptures on tapes and videos, and health products. My parents were constantly approached by fellow Mormons about money-making opportunities, especially after my dad opened a successful business. However, they did eventually lose money from stock investments involving a member of their ward.

    The topic about dual personalities is so accurate. I’ve noticed how friendly members were to me until I rejected their invitation to check our their presentations. Suddenly, they don’t want to talk to me anymore. I guess they are disappointed in me because I won’t be able to pay for my kids’ missions, college tuition, and increase my tithing donations.

    Thanks for another interesting podcast.

  29. This one hits real close to home for me. I had always believed we can and should trust our people with in the church community. I was not “suckered” into bad investments, or anything even remotely like that. But my bishops fraudulent actions has almost destroyed my own business while he talks from the pulpit about how the Lord is blessing him because he has the gospel in his life. I have even understood he will read scriptures to inactive members from the BoM of the promises of the Lords temporal blessing if we will only follow Christ (interpretation go to church).

    The scariest part in the pod cast is the part where the comment was made of those being defended, “I am a good guy.” I am convinced now that many of these “good guys” really believe they are doing no wrong. There is nothing you can do to convince them otherwise. They have themselves and everyone around them believing “all is well in Zion, yea Zion prospers”. When becoming a victim of any type of fraud involving people who have grown up justifying there fraudulent actions and where a leader of the church is concerned there is no hope for the victim. The church teaches to NEVER say anything bad about a leader, even if it is true. There is no real way to be heard especially if you want someone to understand what is really happening.

    I have asked myself hundreds of times why aren’t ethics ever talked or discussed in church? Why is it that the only moral things that are taught are to do with sexual transgressions yet it should cover so much more. ? Do church member really think about moral and ethical responsibilities and obligations within business and professions? I would say only if it was taught outside the church.

    After a lot of desperation I quit going to church, in hopes of one thing, maybe someone would listen. That is when after about a year of many interested experiences I learned the real truth. Perhaps it is hard to teach something you can not follow, and that goes all the way to the top and back almost 200 years. Dark secrets have consequences and unless those dark secrets are brought out in to open and truly exposed and removed from an organization it will never be able to remove these types of problems from within. (Just my opinion)

    Thanks for a great discussion, the more we know the more we grow.

    1. Great comment, thank you. It is absolutely correct that the church culture that forbids criticism of you leaders contributes to this point. Also, i believe that the church actively covers up this situations because it reflects poorly on the church and they dont want that. The result is that more and more people are victimized.

  30. It rocked me to hear Travis Wright’s name in the podcast. Travis Wright was my young men’s leader, and I think something that often goes unnoticed is the pain and suffering caused to family when a father/mother is convicted of fraud. His kids were really wonderful, fun people to be around, and his wife was a loving friend to so many in the ward. If I remember correctly, Travis was arrested shortly after I moved out of the ward to college, so I didn’t see the fallout first hand. However, from what my family has told me, the agony felt by his family members and close friends was horrific. I won’t share details. Just imagine what it would feel like to find out that most of your possessions were going to be auctioned off, that you were losing the home you grew up in, and that the life you thought you had was all disappearing before your eyes. Imagine all of this going on, and still realizing that you love your dad with all of your heart, and that he loves you and is extraordinarily sorry for the pain he caused. Imagine what it would be like to try to forgive your father, for trying to understand the fall from grace when his legitimate financial firm gradually turned into a ponzi scheme after some of its investments began to struggle.

    My heart really goes out to the members of the Wright family who did nothing wrong. It takes a lot of courage to face such an excruciating ordeal and try to show love to your father. It also takes immense courage for Travis’s close friends to struggle onward after losing their money. It was really surprising to see that even some of Travis’s closest, lifelong friends were swindled.

    Ultimately, I think that a dangerous human phenomenon is at play here: in some twisted way, I think people begin to believe the lies they tell when more and more people begin to believe them.

    1. Thanks for your comment Cliff. I also know the Wright family and feel terrible about the fallout it caused with his family and friends. There are no winners in a Ponzi Scheme, and this one is certainly no exception.

  31. Responding to Cliff Crosland’s comments, I appreciate your insights on a personal level, of the wreckage within a family and community because of deception and wrong doing.

    You said,”Ultimately, I think that a dangerous human phenomenon is at play here: in some twisted way, I think people begin to believe the lies they tell when more and more people begin to believe them.” I couldn’t agree more about this dangerous, and intoxicating human phenomenon. When ego clouds judgment, and relationships of trust are utilized for deception; causing the vulnerable and innocent to suffer, it is a sad thing.

    I too, know the Wrights well. Travis’ situation is so typical of so many of these types of fraud. As I watched him grow in ego and arrogance over the years, it was fascinating. I stayed at arms length, kind of amused at how a guy so young, could be so full of himself, and dismissive of others. I had one scrape with him at the beginning of a business situation that I’d been asked to attend. It was not pleasant. I went away feeling a weird vibe and knew that my inner voice was saying, “stay away from these folks”. I’m glad I listened.

    He had a very sweet, kind, young wife and kids. The wife (name withheld) always seemed naive and innocent to things. If she was indeed innocent, my heart goes out to her. I know her and her extended family well. I can’t imagine the stunning, heart wrenching and shocking turn of events — especially after the bragging in the community about the imported floors and walls of european castles that were hundreds of years old, that were used in their home. Friends were so taken by all of the fuss and flap over the Wright’s ‘good fortune’ — at such a young age. Again, I was not impressed. What seems too good to be true in life, always is.

    I had friends and neighbors who were totally taken by the social invitations and charisma of Travis. I howled when the story hit the news, thinking of some of the ‘elitist’ neighbors who were duped by all of it. Some of them were so socially malleable and taken with the drive for acquisition of material things. They bragged about dinner parties, etc. with the Wrights. It was kind of comical.

    Most of these cases are similarly connected to egos-out-of-control. These schemers do begin to believe their own lies, becoming drunk with the power of persuasion. Intoxicated on how their imagined power and control are working on average people. Working on the axiom of ‘if you believe, it will happen’.

    What would be more useful, is to hear cases of people who were swindled out of life savings, retirement, college funds, etc. I know some of these folks who died impoverished and heartbroken at being deceived and swindled. No restitution was ever offered to them. I liken it to cartels and drug dealers who never see the human misery and wreckage caused downline, by their trafficking of life altering substances. Sad.

    The LDS Church is pretty whacked out in how they view and deal with these matters that ruin people’s lives. I’ve seen it firsthand.

    1. Thank you for this comment. I have represented hundreds of victims in these schemes, but unfortunately due to client confidentiality I cannot tell their heartbreaking stories. The details in the stories I did tell were based on public documents for the same reasons.

      I tried to encourage those who are victims to post their own stories here, and I hope they will.

  32. I was on the high counsel of my stake when Shawn Merriman was introduced to us at the beginning of one of our meetings. He said he had done fairly well in business and had collected Rembrandt prints with religious themes. He passed one around which was kind of surprising thing to have happen in a high counsel meeting The guy looked like your typical successful LDS businessman/bishop. Of course, I compared myself to him and felt like a bit of a loser. Anyway, he said he wanted to do a show at the stake center. The stake agreed and it was very well done and well attended. A lot of local dignitaries came. I remember the stake PR person falling all over herself over the VIPs. Then about a year later it came down that the money to purchase the art was basically stolen. That was a buzz kill. I heard next to nothing said about it in the stake.

  33. This was so interesting – so great to get it out there! I saw this happening on a smaller scale with church friends/acquaintances pitching my parents on pyramid schemes. It always left a bad feeling in the air. We also had emotional first-hand accounts from a formerly wealthy friend who lost it all when taken advantage of by his Stake President BFF. Said Stake President later became a general authority. This was really upsetting to me at the time as a committed, believing church member of that stake. So sad.

  34. Hi, John in a similar vein I think it might be interesting to hear a story about the miracle product schemes that go around Mormonism. Here are Just a few that I’ve been approached with: Ear drops that cure autism, colds, and all kinds of diseases. Bracelets that keep you balanced somehow. Tablets that make your gasoline last longer. Herbal foot baths that pull all the toxins out of your body. These are just a few that I remember off hand. It really is a strange phenomenon that Mormons are so trusting and buy into these things.

    This also made me think of the business that hire RM’s and have them use their sales techniques to go door-to-door to sell home security systems. I’m from Atlanta and between college semesters we would get a spike in membership where all these Utah RM’s would suddenly show up in our ward because they were selling something in our area.

  35. My husband and I have been swindled by neighbors, friends, bishops, stake presidents, trusted young women leaders that I looked up to ect. This happens on a small scale as well. Alone the losses seem small but over the years, if we add them up , to us it’s a small fortune. Not to mention the thousands of dollars paid to tithing. It’s just a thought but could tithing be conditioning us to give our money away to anyone who asks for it? It has taken us many shcemes and many blows to our ego, but we have finally learned not to trust many people with money. Thanks for bringing this very important issue to the forefront John and Mark.

  36. Just an observation, as a member of the local business community in Utah, regarding Multi Level Marketing Companies ( MLM’s) or Direct Sales Networking Companies (DSN) or Network Marketing Firms (NMF). My company has been called on to offer certain services to these companies over the years. We’ve offered legitimate business services that these firms order. I’ve been doing this for 21 years now. Each time I go into a new meeting with these type of firms (especially the start up ones), I am leary. I’ve been swindled a few times with unpaid bills and a million excuses by some of them.

    What I wanted more to comment on, is the whacky internal cultures that they have. Normally, it is a man or woman who had an idea, sold it to neighbors and family as the start of their companies. Sometimes it’s a group of partners who back it. Eventually, when the money is rolling in, due to the pyramid of downline sales associates (unsalaried), the owners or partners get whackier and whackier in their eccentricities: corporate jets, exotic trips, palatial homes, huge salaries and bonuses. spin off businesses, and other things that satisfy the ego. Sometimes they treat you well. A few remain approachable, kind and fair. Others are so punch drunk with their imagined fame and power, that they treat people very poorly. I could tell tons of tales.

    With some (not all) this fame and fortune also causes ruin in their families. Entitlement, unrealistic expectations, lack of understanding of the ‘average person’, substance abuse, etc. are often apparent. Getting rich quick, hasn’t been beneficial to their family lives.

    I’ve seen a lot of this in Utah. Texas and Georgia seem to also have a preponderance of it. Most of these companies will tell you that it is not about a product that they are delivering, rather about “opportunity” in sales and growth. It doesn’t matter if they are selling candles, oils, security, jungle juice, pet products, beauty products or more. Most of the owners barely believe in their product and simply see it as a way to get somewhere else. They are always having to come up with a new product or tweak a product to keep followers interested. They get on stage and sell this stuff with tears and touching stories, with a gospel zeal. Some of these meetings make your stomach turn. Only about 10% of the downline sales associates ever make real money with these schemes.

    One backstage experience that I remember years ago, was the owner of a company coming onto the stage to speak. Women were standing in the audience, screaming and waving their hands in the air, like the guy was a rockstar. He had a Tom Jones brillo pad afro, skin tanned like luggage leather, hairy chest, gold chains AND a shiny gold zip-up jumpsuit, with shiny gold Pumas that were custom made. It really was like a Tom Jones concert — short of women throwing their underwear on the stage! Many of these women were LDS. When he spoke, he told women to throw away their hormone replacement pills and cancer treatments, etc. Many in the audience were in wheelchairs. He promised that his juice would cure all. I could see his corporate attorney squirming in the front row, with these claims. Five years later, the guy was in prison for tax evasion, to the tune of 90 million. I’ve seen so many situations like this, with men and women who are drunk with ego, power and a mission. It’s their alternate gospel. And many of them are active LDS church members. They prey upon the vulnerable who come to their events as though these were gospel revival tents! They are selling salvation from sickness, dry skin, aches, pain, disease — and a life of drudgery.

  37. When I hear Miormon and Ponzi I always think of the guy killed by Jodi arias, I think he was part of one. Actually it’s a good thing to live by – not to mix church friends with investments. One of my friends in my ward has been trying to sell me life insurance.

  38. John,

    This hit a massive cord with me. I lost over $200,000 in the summer of 2010 to a couple of gentlemen from Sandy, Utah who sold me on their charm, BYU alumni status, and “church connections” (one was a former Bishop and one was a current High Counselor). The investment they ran was a complete sham from the moment it was put together. I ended up claiming BK and almost losing my family’s house while these two rolled on to their next chapter in life. The lowest lifeforms I’ve ever dealt with. (Looking back, I can’t believe how dumb I was. One of them in the “recruiting stage” even showed me his temple recommend; that should have been a massive red flag.)

    I ended up contacting 4 or 5 other people who had lost money in this same green technology company and the total is well over $1 million (taken from other LDS people like myself). I’m happy to go on record with anyone or direct them to the ripoff report if anything I say here is disputed. Not the first time I’ve lost money to people in the church, but certainly the most significant to my current well being.

    I’ve now learned if anyone starts talking about their mission, their kid’s temple wedding or their Stake calling in the course of doing business I run as fast as I can. I’m active LDS, but the personal integrity inside the church is embarrassing. I own a small business and after 25 years of experience I can say I’d rather hire a non-member any day of the week. Better ethics all around.

    1. This is what you should expect from a church that was founded upon lie after lie after lie by a congenital liar, liar, liar. Your LDS leadership scammers are doing nothing more than imitating the illustrious founder of the Mother of All Scams. Look in the mirror, swallow hard, and then tell yourself that Joseph Smith has scammed you out of way more than $200,000 over your lifetime. Not only your money, but your time and energy that could have been invested on something that you won’t eventually sorely regret.

  39. Regarding Daniel HunterIII, He has children, are they just as crooked as their father. Who paid the fathers fines ?

  40. I went to a presentation in Orem when I was a BYU student that initially impressed me. The guy who presented it was a jokester who could actually be funny. I admired the spontaneity of his presentation, and it was mostly about replacing a lot of household products that contain poisons with naturally derived cleaning products. At the time I worked at the Provo Park Hotel (now part of a Marriott chain, I think). I was planning on going to the managers of the hotel and selling them these sorts of products in place of the poisonous chemical cleaners that most hotels use.

    Then I was taken into another room to speak with one of the many representatives, which is where I started getting uncomfortable. I just kept saying I would come back after thinking about it, and sit in on another presentation. The guy I was talking to (also college-aged) kept pressuring me to put money into it right away, and I kept thinking about how odd it was that I would make even more money by signing other people up to sell. I hadn’t sold a single thing yet. But I kept replying that I needed time to think.

    I then went back for another presentation and discovered that even though another guy was presenting, he was making all the same jokes at the same times that the other guy made them. I left right then.

    You would think that I would have learned my lesson, but I got sucked into another hotel conference room meeting a couple of years later that promised all the new furniture I would need at remarkably low prices. Definitely lost a little money on that one. (At least it wasn’t my life savings.)

    NEVER BUY THE EXTENDED WARRANTY!!!!!!!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.