Michael Smith and his son Quintin Smith have each been charged with six counts of securities fraud and one count of pattern of unlawful activity, all second-degree felonies, in connection with a furniture loan company they owned called Newport Financial. According to a Salt Lake Tribune article published today they have been accused of “bilking investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars — one while serving as counselor to an LDS stake presidency — in a fraudulent furniture-financing scheme that targeted, among others, a prominent University of Utah football coach.”
The indictment alleges that the Smiths promised a return of 18 percent to gain investments of at least $1.8 million from 18 victims. Their biggest investor was Norm Chow, the offensive coordinator for the University of Utah’s football team, who invested $500,000.
The Smiths are accused of misleading investors about the default rate of loans that they had in Newport’s portfolio, and about the solvency of the company. Investors were solicited between 2005 and 2009.
According to my sources one of investors in Newport Financial had cancer but the Smiths refused to return any of his principal to him while he was struggling with his medical bills. Meanwhile the Smiths paid themselves large salaries and purchased trucks, a MasterCraft Boat, and a new house on in Salt Lake’s expensive Country Club area.
As you may expect, this case does have an LDS Church angle. According to the indictment recently Michael Smith had served as a counselor in a stake presidency, although it is unclear if he explicitly used his position in the church to solicit investments. At least one investor was in his ward. It is also unclear why the DA’s office didn’t charge them under Utah’s new law imposing enhanced penalties where religious affiliations are involved in fraud.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office recently formed a new white-collar crime unit with seven attorneys dedicated to prosecuting nonviolent felonies, and financial crimes in particular. This is their first high-profile indictment, and this group appears to be aggressively targeting affinity fraud schemes here in Salt Lake.
Now if only somebody in Utah County would follow suit…