I am pleased to see that after years of urging from me and others who have seen affinity fraud perpetrated within LDS church congregations for years (especially in Utah County) the church has finally stepped up to the plate and taken a stronger position on this issue. They did so at the annual Fraud College event that took place on February 15, 2012 at the University of Utah, and on their website. The church was asked to speak at the first Fraud College 2010, but they declined that year, and they declined again in 2011. This “head in the sand” response to the problem was infuriating to federal and state law enforcement officials – and to me.
Thankfully the Church leadership finally decided this year that they needed to acknowledge and confront the growing incidence of church members — often in positions of trust within the church — victimizing other church members. The FBI has stated that Utah is a hot spot for financial fraud and estimate that $2 billion worth of fraud is “under investigation or being prosecuted in Utah courts.”
The speaker at the conference was Michael Otterson, managing director of the Church’s Public Affairs Department. And he didn’t mess around. He compared fraudsters to child molesters because they “exploit one of the things we value most: the trust that makes our communities what they are.”