Judge sentences woman who used church friendships to defraud; investor cautions

SALT LAKE CITY — The Mortgage and Financial Fraud Unit of the Utah Attorney General’s Office announced the sentencing of Lori Ann Anderson, 54, of Logan, Utah, to consecutive terms of imprisonment by Judge Thomas Willmore of the 1st District Court in Logan.

Anderson spent time in prison in 1992 for defrauding insurance-policy holders of $140,000. She had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of securities fraud and one count of pattern of unlawful activity — all second degree felonies — on Jan. 23, 2016.

Anderson’s recent sentencing is the culmination of a joint investigation with the FBI, the Utah Division of Securities of the Utah Department of Commerce and prosecution by the Utah Attorney General’s Office. The investigation discovered that 46 people had lost over $1.7 million as a result of Anderson’s actions.

Anderson had formed a trading club named S.M.T.S. that allowed her to pool the money of friends who invested with her for day trading in Apple stock. Anderson represented to her investors that she made returns of around 10 percent a year and never had a losing day trading.

The joint investigation discovered that Anderson had actually lost $300,000 trading between 2013 and 2015. Despite these losses, Anderson continued to mislead investors, sending them false account statements that purported to show gains.

A search warrant for Anderson’s home was obtained in July 2015. During the search, Anderson admitted to lying to investors, telling them she was making money when she was in fact losing. She also admitted to showing investors false earnings on a program she had purchased for her computer.

By the time of the search warrant, Anderson claimed she only had approximately $40,000 of the original $1.7 million in investor funds remaining.

“Tragically, this case demonstrates how easy it is for any of us to fall victim to fraudsters with promises of high returns,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said. “Before investing, even with family and friends, I urge Utahns to check the White Collar Crime Offender Registry, to call the Securities and Exchange Commission, or the Utah Department of Commerce. We are grateful for the close partnership we enjoy with the FBI and the Utah Division of Securities that has helped us to bring Anderson, and others, to justice.”

FBI Salt Lake City Special Agent in Charge Eric Barnhart said the FBI and its law enforcement partners are committed to investigating those who “intentionally mislead and take advantage of people’s trust for financial gain.”

“Anderson’s crime is especially egregious as she has been previously convicted of fraud and she continued to prey on neighbors and friends,” Barnhart said. “Today’s sentencing means she will be held accountable for her actions. The FBI encourages the public to do their due diligence before investing their hard-earned money and to report any suspected fraud.”

Keith Woodwell, Director of the Utah Division of Securities, also expressed gratitude for the partnership with the FBI and the Utah Attorney General’s Office in bringing criminals to justice.

“Lori Anderson’s case is a grim repeat performance – deluding unsuspecting victims into handing over their trust and money in a church environment,” Woodwell said. “Affinity fraud continues to be the most damaging white collar crime where fraudsters not only steal the nest eggs of Utah victims but destroy their trusting nature as well.”

Anderson’s sentencing is the culmination of a joint investigation with the FBI, the Utah Division of Securities of the Utah Department of Commerce and prosecution by the Utah Attorney General’s Office. The investigation discovered that 46 people had lost over $1.7 million as a result of Anderson’s actions.

More than ten victims — some in tears — addressed the court at the sentencing hearing, expressing betrayal at Anderson’s deceit. Anderson will serve a total of 2-30 years in prison, depending on the recommendations of the Board of Pardon and Paroles.

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