ST. GEORGE — Frank Powell, the alleged mastermind of a fraud ring that bilked an elderly woman out of more than $300,000, pleaded guilty during a hearing held last week in in U.S. District Court. He is the first of eight defendants indicted in federal court.
Powell, 51, pleaded guilty to six of the 10 charges outlined in the indictment, including one felony count each of wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, concealment of a document or object and tampering with a witness, victim or informant. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of destruction of records and tangible objects in a federal investigation, according to the plea agreement filed March 11 in U.S. District Court.
Frank Powell is one of eight individuals that were indicted back in November, including his mother, Gloria Gene Powell, and girlfriend Faye Renteria. Also indicted were a number of family members and associates, including Terrence Quincy Powell and Martell Taz Powell, along with associates Bubby Mern Shepherd, Rocky James Mott and Angela McDuffie.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, four counts of money laundering were dismissed in exchange for the guilty plea.
The agreement also required Powell to admit to the elements of the crimes, including that he devised a scheme with the specific intent to fraudulently obtain money or property using false pretenses or promises.
He also admittedly agreed to the unlawful plan and knew the purpose of the scheme that he “willfully” joined into, as well as admitting to working in concert with the seven other defendants for the shared mutual benefit of the conspiracy and to using interstate wire communications facilities to do so.
Powell conceded that he knowingly engaged in money transactions valued at more than $10,000 involving property that was criminally obtained and that he “corruptly” concealed cash and destroyed two cell phones belonging to himself and co-defendant Renteria to obstruct or impede the FBI investigation.
The defendant also admittedly persuaded or attempted to persuade another person to hinder or prevent that individual from talking to federal authorities, tactics that included sending letters and having Renteria make calls to the victim to dissuade her from cooperating with agents.
Under the terms of the agreement, Powell will be sentenced to serve 10 years in federal prison, avoiding a sentence of 90 years if the maximum penalty for each of the six charges were imposed.
The defendant remains in custody without bail until sentencing, which is scheduled to take place May 20.
Renteria and Gloria Jean Powell are scheduled to appear for a change of plea hearing at the end of March, while McDuffie, Terrence Quincy Powell and Martell Taz Powell have been released from custody as their cases move forward.
Shepherd and Mott were given until a hearing held Tuesday to determine whether they would accept the federal prosecutor’s offer and enter into plea agreements, the details of which have yet to be released.
Powell fraud ring part of largest sweep of elder fraud in U.S. history
The Powell fraud ring case in Washington County was on a list compiled and released in March by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah of the largest-ever sweep of elder fraud cases in U.S. history.
This year, the Department of Justice prosecuted more than 400 defendants whose schemes robbed senior citizens of more than $1 billion dollars — up from the 260 defendants charged during last year’s sweep.
The Powell ring was one of four cases involving 20 defendants indicted in Utah for schemes that bilked seniors out of more than $200 million across the Beehive state.
The sweep was also focused on foreign-based fraud schemes that targeted a vast number of older adults, the type of transnational elder fraud that is now one of the top priorities for the U.S. Department of Justice.
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