Ward Financial Clerk Alan Oviatt Sentenced for Defrauding Ward Members in St. George

This is a repost of an article that appeared in The Spectrum yesterday about the sentencing of Alan Herbert Oviatt.   There is also a civil case pending before the Utah Division of Securities that could result in additional civil fines and penalties.

St. George resident sentenced for theft

Written by Kevin Jenkins
Oct. 22, 2013 | thespectrum.com

ST. GEORGE —A St. George resident convicted of stealing more than $100,000 from a fellow church member whose $700,000 investment was otherwise depleted through a failed series of online trades was sentenced to jail time and a court order to repay the victim Tuesday.

Alan Herbert Oviatt, 56, was found guilty of felony theft in August after a jury found him guilty of taking $123,000 from the investment without authorization at a rate of about $6,000 per month. The victim, Steve Hansen, recovered $77,115.99 still remaining in the investment account after the theft was discovered in 2010, but the remainder of the investment was lost in the market.

“You lost over $500,000 of my money because you had no expertise. …Did you think it was going to make my day by stealing $123,000 more?” Hansen asked.

Hansen and his wife, Wendy, told 5th District Court Judge Jeffrey Wilcox that they wanted Oviatt to be sent to prison for the maximum amount of time possible because they don’t believe he will ever repay them and to send a message to the public that “crime doesn’t pay.”

Wilcox sentenced Oviatt to the statutory amount of time for a second-degree felony —between one and 15 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 —but the judge set the sentence aside in favor of 36 months of probation and 120 days in the Washington County Jail to be served on weekends and holidays, starting Friday.

“I don’t want you to see this as being lenient,” Wilcox told the Hansens. “I do want Mr. Oviatt to be (making payments) and there’s no way to do that if he’s in prison or in jail.”

Wilcox ordered Oviatt to repay the $123,000 at a rate of $1,000 per month, which Oviatt’s attorney, Jay Winward, said his client would be able to do based on his expectation of income from a $4,000 a month job.

Deputy Prosecutor Zachary Weiland challenged the income figure, noting he’d contacted the purported employer earlier in the day and was told “nothing’s set in stone yet.” Weiland also noted that Oviatt claimed to have been working in information technology but the Internet-based health product company he’d cited as an employer “is nonexistent.”

Wilcox accepted Winward’s argument that if Oviatt fails to make the $1,000 monthly payments then the court can lift the stay on the sentence and send Oviatt to prison, however.

Hansen said he and Oviatt met each other as fellow members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while Hansen was serving as a financial clerk in his ward and Oviatt was a clerk in the umbrella stake unit.

Oviatt learned Hansen had lost money in a prior investment and took advantage of their acquaintance to build Hansen’s confidence that Oviatt could do a better job because he had successfully handled large amounts of money as a licensed options trader, claims that later proved to be false, Hansen said.

Oviatt also claimed to have had enough of his own money to make an offer on a nearly $2 million home promoted in the local Parade of Homes, Hansen said. On the other hand, Oviatt failed to mention a series of financial problems, including two bankruptcies, he had experienced during the previous decade.

Hansen said their agreement, which he had in writing but without signatures, included a plan that Oviatt would stop the trades if 50 percent of the investment was lost, and would not take any money unless the investment earned more than a 20 percent return.

A state Securities and Exchange Commission case against Oviatt is pending, stemming from the complaint.

“I believe you started grooming me right from the start. You knew our financial situation,” Hansen said in comments directed to Oviatt.

Hansen blasted Oviatt’s claims during the trial that the two were partners in a business run by Hansen, that Hansen was a “sophisticated investor” who enjoyed taking big risks, and that there was no formal agreement regarding the investment.

“You lied on the stand (in court) when you said you never came to my house. …I was surprised at how easy it was for you to raise your hand to the square and swear to tell the truth, and then lie your guts out,” Hansen said.

Oviatt and his wife read statements directed to the Hansens acknowledging Oviatt’s remorse and responsibility for the family’s loss. Oviatt expressed gratitude to arrive at a resolution of the case after more than three years of court proceedings.

“I look forward to my sentence,” he said.

4 thoughts on “Ward Financial Clerk Alan Oviatt Sentenced for Defrauding Ward Members in St. George

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  2. My family and I have known Alan Oviatt for more than 35 years, and I can assure everyone that he is a great man with a wonderful family, his outstanding life style based on wonderful principles has inspired me to be much better.

    I know blogs and news tend go for big headlines…

    There is a False System of Value which consists in measuring a person by the worst thing they know about them…

    So next time we read, watch or listen to an article, news or “big headline” that intends to describe some one by an event which they might not even be very familiar with, we can ask ourself:

    What is my system of value?
    What is this persons worth?

    1. Thank you for your comment Mr. Ross. My blog is not intended to be sensationalist or to “go for big headlines.” I write about fraud schemes, and in particular cases where people use church and family connections to gain trust, which is then leveraged for financial gain. This is called “affinity fraud.”

      I am not intending to pass judgment on Mr. Oviatt, but of course affinity fraud is exactly what he was accused of – and pled guilty to. I’ve said it a hundred times: just because someone is “a great man with a wonderful family” does NOT mean that he is honest or that the investment he is pitching is not a scam. People in the LDS Community can be very adept at carrying on a facade of righteousness while perpetrating a fraud, I see it all the time. Ask the victims of Mr. Oviatt’s scheme, I’m sure they have a different view of him than you do.

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