SALT LAKE CITY – Wednesday marks the beginning of a jury-trial for two men who are accused of scamming multiple investors out of millions of dollars in a failed real estate project in central Utah.
Marc and Stephen Jenson were formally charged in 2011 with fraud and money laundering in connection with a failed Beaver County ski resort development.
The jury trial is expected to take about two weeks, and it all stems from a failed investment from about six years ago. Both brothers face multiple felony counts of fraud and money laundering.
They pitched their multi-billion dollar idea to turn the old Elk Meadows ski area in Beaver County into a posh, destination resort featuring skiing, golf and high-end homes. The original charges against the Jensons were filed more than four years ago by then Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.
The Jensons claim their deal was legitimate but fell apart due to circumstances like a downturn in the economy and a hedge fund backer in New York making the decision to back out on the deal.
The Jensons further allege that the charges were filed as a form of payback by Shurtleff and his then-deputy John Swallow. The brothers said they were victims of a shakedown by the two, who allegedly demanded money and favors from Marc Jenson—who said he refused those requests.
Tim Taylor, Deputy Utah County Attorney, said the trial will examine the intricacies of the deal and the way it was handled.
Taylor said in court: “Did they fail to tell the investors, or these individuals, important things, that would have been important to them? Was there deception involved? So, before you even get to the money laundering, you gotta figure out, and you got to determine whether or not there was deception, whether or not they deceived these individuals that gave them money."
It took the judge nearly a half an hour Wednesday morning just to read the formal charges against the Jenson brothers, and it took another 40 minutes for both the defense and prosecution to read their opening statements to the jury.