Kane County man pleads guilty in federal court for scheme that netted $860K from elderly victims

2019 file photo of 5th District Court where federal hearings are held, St. George, Utah, August, 2019 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A former Kane County man who allegedly solicited money from elderly individuals by promising he was on the verge of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars pleaded guilty to the charges during a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court.

Kurt Jurgens Bauer, 56, appeared in U.S. District Court in St. George via video and pleaded guilty to five counts, including three counts of wire fraud and two counts of false impersonation of a federal employee – charges that were filed by federal prosecutors in July.

Negotiations have been ongoing in the case since shortly after the indictment was filed, and during Thursday’s hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Dent said the government has agreed to a prison term of between 48-78 months to be served in a federal correctional facility.

If Bauer was sentenced to the maximum on all five counts, Dent said, then he would be looking at more than 65 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $1 million in fines.

According to federal prosecutors, the defendant ran the scheme from 2011 through April 2020, during which he defrauded his elderly targets out of money and property by telling them he was on the verge of receiving hundreds of millions dollars – and in some cases, billions of dollars – funds that were frozen by the District Court in Nevada and required a bond to release.

The defendant began soliciting payments, often weekly, under the guise that the payments would be used to satisfy the bond. He promised his victims a large return after the frozen funds were released by the court “in the near future,” according to the indictment.

In all, the defendant received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a number of individuals during the scheme, including $100,000 that came from two elderly individuals in their 80s.

Prior to Thursday’s hearing, the defendant signed a statement in support of his guilty plea where he admitted to devising the scheme to defraud money or property by using false pretenses and promises that were material to the case — with the “specific intent” to do so.

Bauer also admitted to using or causing other individuals to use interstate or foreign wire communications or facilities to carry out the scheme, and he admitted to assuming and pretending to be an employee of a federal court acting under the authority of the United States and that he knew those representations were false.

Dent said that Bauer “created fictitious characters” to further the scheme, including a federal officer of the court, a lawyer and a wealthy businessman.

Instead of using the money invested to pay the court fees on the “frozen funds,” Dent said the victims’ money was spent on expensive hotel bills, credit-card payments and restaurant tabs, among other things.

During the hearing, Bauer’s defense attorney, Ryan Stout, told District Judge David Nuffer that his client suffers from heart issues and has recently undergone cancer testing, the results of which were still pending, but said they are in agreement regarding the prison term range as outlined by federal prosecutors.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, the defendant will be ordered to pay more than $856,000 in restitution and to forfeit any property gained from the scheme.

Nuffer ordered a presentence report be completed prior to sentencing, which is scheduled to take place in federal court Feb. 25. The defendant will remain in custody in Kane County until then.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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