Last week former Salt Lake City councilman and former LDS Stake President Eric Jergensen was convicted of conspiring to defraud an aerospace company of $2.5 million. A New York jury returned the guilty verdict after a seven-day trial in U.S. District Court in Syracuse, NY. Jergensen and another man, Debashis Ghosh of Chicago Illinois, face a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. They may also be ordered to pay restitution to their victims.
The two men were convicted of conspiring to defraud the Laurentian Aerospace Corporation of $2.5 million. Acting United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith stated: “Jergensen and Ghosh stole $2.5 million from a group of people who founded Laurentian with the hope of building a new business in the North Country. Jergensen and Ghosh quickly gained their victims’ trust, and just as quickly abused it by taking their money and then lying to them about what had occurred. They strung their victims along for years with false promises that their money would be returned. Yesterday’s verdict brought them to justice, brought justice to their victims, and demonstrates our commitment to investigating and prosecuting financial crime.”
Jergensen and Ghosh were officers of Verdant Capital Group, LLC. Laurentian retained Verdant to raise funds for the construction of an airplane maintenance facility to be built in Plattsburgh, New York. Jergensen and Ghosh asked Laurentian to invest $2.5 million as seed money for the project, and promised to retein the money in a Wells Fargo account. Soon after Laurentian wired $2.5 million into the Wells Fargo account Jergensen and Ghosh began transferring the money out of the account without Laurentian’s authorization.
For several years after the money had been used, the men assured Laurentian and its investors that their money was safe and secure. Jergensen even forged a memorandum of understanding showing that the money was still in the bank. The government also showed at trial that the defendants misappropriated an additional $2.4 million in funds that other businesses had entrusted to them.
I didn’t see any evidence that any of the victims were members of Jergensen’s stake so this story doesn’t appear to have an affinity fraud angle. Feel free to share your story in the comments below if that is incorrect.
There have been, however, stories in the local press about his financial difficulties that anyone who was considering doing business could have found through a simple Google search. In 2009 the Salt Lake Tribune reported on several embarrassing headlines and suggested that these troubles were the reason he decided not to seek a third term on the city council. At the time he had two bench warrants issued against him in 3rd District Court involving his business. He told the paper he had resolved a $98,000 debt his company owed to an Ogden businessman and was working to repay a $120,000 loan from local businessman Kem Gardner, former president of The Boyer Co.
Jergensen served on the Salt Lake City Council from 2001 through 2009, representing Capitol Hill and the Avenues. He also served as head of Salt Lake City’s redevelopment agency.
Copyright © 2017 by Mark W. Pugsley. All rights reserved.