73-year-old mother of alleged ringleader of fraud case arrested for obstruction of justice

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The mother of a man sought in connection with a fraud case was arrested after allegedly tipping the fugitive off before agents’ arrival and lying to police.

Gloria Jean Powell, 73, of St. George, booking photo posted  in Washington County, Utah, Oct. 15, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Gloria Jean Powell, 73, of St. George, was arrested Tuesday and later charged with one third-degree felony count of obstruction of justice. She was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on $50,000 bail.

Her son, 50-year-old Frank Gene Powell, is being sought for questioning and is listed as the primary suspect in a fraud ring that was exposed after police received reports that an elderly woman was being exploited, according to multiple probable cause statements filed in connection with several suspects, in addition to allegations that he was engaged to the 80-year-old victim.

Investigators discovered that the alleged victim had recently signed the family’s cabin over to the suspect for zero money down, in addition to giving him large sums of money. Frank Powell allegedly received approximately $150,000 in addition to the property in Washington County that was signed over July 31, county records show.

Frank Powell had been released in 2017 after spending nearly three decades behind bars for murder and has multiple convictions for theft by deception and other similar charges dating back to the mid-80s.

The arrest of Gloria Powell stems from an incident Oct. 9, when Adult Probation and Parole agents responded to her residence to check if her son was staying there.

After agents failed to locate the suspect in the residence, they issued a warning to his mother not to aid or assist in hiding the suspect, which she said she understood and agreed not to help her son. The agents photographed the woman’s 2010 Toyota Venza before leaving the residence.

Frank Gene Powell, 50, in Washington County, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Adult Probation and Parole, St. George News

Later that same day, agents attempted to arrest the suspect at a residence in Washington County, but he and “several other defendants” fled the area before police arrived, thus evading capture, according to the arrest report. Agents also learned from a source that the suspect “had received a call from Gloria Jean Powell that police were on their way to arrest the parolee,” the agent noted in the report.

The following day, agents received information that the car Frank Powell fled in was located at a travel center, where video surveillance showed a Toyota Venza pass through the parking lot before it stopped and then picked up the parolee.

Agents also realized it was the same vehicle that was photographed the previous day belonging to Gloria Powell.

During a telephone call with agents, the suspect’s mother allegedly admitted that she picked the suspect up from the travel center to drive him to St. George, but instead of continuing on the journey, the suspect got out of the car at the next exit.

Contrary to the mother’s claim, the report states that surveillance footage from the travel center revealed that after Gloria Powell picked up Frank Powell, she then continued on Interstate 15 heading north toward Salt Lake City.

Agents located video surveillance footage from a medical clinic in Nephi that showed Gloria Powell driving into the parking lot and dropping the suspect off, and the footage then showed Frank Powell getting into a second vehicle and leaving the area.

In a request for a higher bail amount, the agent wrote that “Gloria Jean Powell is willfully, purposely, and maliciously providing false information to investigators to conceal and aid in the escape of the parolee.”

They also wrote that Frank Powell, “a convicted murderer who is still under the supervision of the Utah Board of Pardons and Adult Probation and Parole,” is considered a public safety risk.

Update 8:25 p.m. CBS13 reports that Frank Powell has been apprehended in Lodi, California, and is being held in the San Joaquin County Jail.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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