Former Utah County Commissioner Gary Jay Anderson and businessman Alan McKee have been charged with three counts of communications fraud and one count of engaging in a pattern of unlawful activity for allegedly posing as LDS Church leaders in an attempt to defraud a construction company out of $1.2 million.
All four charges filed against Mr. Anderson and Mr. McKee in 3rd District Court by the Utah Attorney General’s Office are second-degree felonies, which carry the potential penalties of one to 15 years in prison.
Anderson and McKee Posed as LDS Church Officials From 2011 to 2015
According to an article from the Salt Lake Tribune, investigators wrote in the charging documents that Mr. Anderson and Mr. McKee impersonated LDS Church officials from 2011 to 2015 in order to attract investors to what the pair said was a plan to establish a rail line and an industrial park on LDS Church land in Elberta, Utah.
Apparently, employees of the LDS Church’s land management corporation have acknowledged that they discussed a potential rail service with Mr. McKee, but that the proposal stalled in 2013 after Mr. McKee failed to follow through. Mr. McKee had been introduced to the Church’s officials by several Utah County commissioners, including Mr. Anderson.
McKee and Anderson Defraud Ames Construction
During the same time Mr. McKee was in talks with the LDS Church, he was also corresponding with Ames Construction. According to investigators, Mr. McKee sent Ames letters on LDS Church letterhead, which purported to be from people connected to the Church and its land management corporation. The letters allegedly discussed the industrial park and showed support for Mr. McKee’s involvement in the project, even going so far as to praise Mr. McKee’s earlier work on the project.
As part of the correspondence with Ames was a 2013 email from a Yahoo account that Mr. McKee claimed belonged to “Eric Peling,” who supposedly worked for the Church’s land management company. The email apologized that the substance of the communication was not on official letterhead, but that the LDS Church was “making financial payouts” in connection to the rail line and set meetings to finalize a $4 million payout from the Church to Ames Construction and Mr. McKee.
Ames’ regional vice president, Mark Brennan, met with Mr. McKee and someone who identified himself as “Mr. Peling,” but LDS Church officials later said there is no church employee by that name, investigators claimed.
While Mr. McKee was trying to garner Ames participation in the rail line and industrial park, Mr. McKee was also speaking with Mr. Brennan about a personal business deal to purchase the LDS Church’s surplus farm equipment at a discount. Mr. McKee claimed to be a “preferred buyer” for the Church’s equipment and said he could act as a go-between for Mr. Brennan and the Church. Mr. Brennan paid Mr. McKee $110,000 for the equipment, but it was never delivered.
Throughout the negotiations with Mr. McKee, Mr. Brennan received numerous phone calls from a man identifying himself as “Stevenson,” which continually reassured Mr. Brennan that the Church was committed to the pending rail line project and the equipment deal. However, after listening to two of the recorded conversations between Mr. Brennan and “Stevenson,” investigators determined that the voice of the caller was actually Mr. Anderson.
Anderson and McKee Defraud McKee’s Friend and Fellow Churchgoer
In addition to defrauding Ames, investigators claim that Mr. McKee also defrauded a fellow churchgoer out of $750,000 after Mr. McKee claimed to be a “preferred buyer” of foreclosed farm and construction equipment. However, the business that Mr. McKee said he could buy the equipment from never existed. Even still, someone claiming to be the president of the company called Mr. McKee’s friend and sent him numerous text messages regarding the purchase of the equipment. Again, investigators determined that the purported president was in fact Mr. Anderson.
Investigators seized the cellphones of Mr. McKee and Mr. Anderson and found text messages between them, coordinating communications with the alleged victims. Mr. Anderson at times told the victims he was Mr. McKee’s attorney; he later told investigators he was not Mr. McKee’s attorney, but received $10,000 per month from Mr. McKee for “consulting” services.
Investigators reviewed Mr. McKee and Mr. Anderson’s finances and found several transactions between them. They found that Mr. McKee was shifting money around his accounts and accounts to his business, Ophir Minerals and Aggregate, LLC. The company was named by the Utah County Commission as “business of the year” in 2011, while Mr. Anderson was serving on the Utah County Commission.
LDS Church Releases Statement on Charges
LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins released a prepared statement Monday regarding the charges.
“Two individuals have been charged with fraud for claiming to be or represent (former) Bishop Gary E. Stevenson during their business dealings. Elder Stevenson was serving as the presiding bishop of the church at that time. He does not know these individuals, has never spoken with them, and was completely unaware of their activities,” Hawkins said in the statement. “The church alerted authorities as soon as it learned of the matter, and Elder Stevenson has provided a statement to prosecutors confirming he was not involved in this brazen scheme, which attempted to misuse the good name of the church and the office of the presiding bishop,” Hawkins said.
* Photo cred.: deseretnews.com