Jury deadlocked in high-profile Utah fraud case; mistrial declared

Posted at 3:49 PM, Oct 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-17 00:28:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The jury deliberating one of Utah's biggest fraud trials deadlocked, so a mistrial was declared.

For now, "Free Capitalist" Rick Koerber no longer faces the threat of federal prosecution. Federal prosecutors said they would review the case and decide if they want to re-try him.

"Time is on the side of truth!" Koerber said as he left the courthouse Monday.

After seven weeks of arguments and testimony and another seven days of deliberations, jurors told the court they could not come to a verdict. U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer said as a result, he would declare a mistrial. Jurors indicated that they were deadlocked last week, but the court sent in a note to keep deliberating. They sent back a note indicating they may be able to reach a verdict on some counts, but then Monday said they couldn't agree on anything.

Koerber's defense attorney, Marcus Mumford, told reporters that deliberations came down 11-1 in favor of the defense.

"It's a bit of a disappointment," assistant U.S. Attorney for Utah Stewart Walz told reporters outside of court. "We believed in our case. We think we tried a good case."

Prosecutors accused Koerber of perpetuating a $100 million Ponzi scheme. A decade ago, Koerber was all over Utah -- on billboards, the radio and hosting investment seminars.

He insisted there was no fraud scheme, but has acknowledged the economy soured things.

"The business had $128 million in assets," he said. "We had more collateral than we had investment money. This whole theory we had a Ponzi scheme is absurd. It's not a Ponzi scheme when you use money from your own successes to build your business, even if you're borrowing money for a period of time."

Koerber was originally supposed to be tried in 2009. A judge tossed the case when he ruled Koerber's speedy trial rights were violated. The feds took it to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and won a do-over. That led to this recent trial.

Recently, the U.S. Attorney's Office has gotten increasingly aggressive about prosecuting white collar crimes. U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said the Koerber mistrial would not change that.

"We will not give up on our fight against financial fraud here in Utah. This is a classic case of a Ponzi scheme and Utah fraud," he said.

Federal prosecutors are expected to review their trial presentation and meet with any willing jurors before making a decision about whether to re-try Koerber.

"They may, but what's going to change?" Mumford said in response.

Even though he did not get a verdict, Koerber told FOX 13 he feels a sense of acquittal from it.

"Whenever it says United States of America versus somebody, and that somebody lives to fight another day, it's a victory," he said.