Judge rejects plea deal for Utah attorney charged with embezzling millions

Posted at 6:22 PM, Apr 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-19 20:58:35-04

A prominent Salt Lake City attorney thought he would be spending just over six years in prison after embezzling more than $12 million from dozens of clients over a span of 13 years.

Instead, a federal judge refused to accept the 73-month plea deal — indicating the punishment was not harsh enough and that he doesn’t believe Calvin Curtis is fully remorseful.

Curtis was a special needs trust attorney, representing some of the most vulnerable clients in Utah — many of whom suffer from severe mental or physical disabilities.

Prior to the ruling, Curtis cried and apologized to the victims. Cameras were not allowed in the courtroom.

Kris Sanford, who has been paralyzed since 2009, addressed Curtis directly during the hearing.

“Your moral compass is not there,” Sanford said. “It’s disgusting… I guess on the advice of my attorney, I’m going to stop there.”

Sanford, who said he “only” lost about $40,000, asked the judge to ignore the recommended 73-month sentence that prosecutors reached with Curtis.

Aaron Hall, who is legally blind, also asked the judge to ignore the plea deal. He said he lost about half a million dollars.

“This brought me almost to suicide,” Hall said. “He gave fraudulent accounts to family members who were questioning me and drove me to the point where I was questioning my own sanity and whether I did something wrong... It’s really embarrassing being a father not being able to take care of your children. Your children shouldn’t have to pay all your bills."

Sherry McConkey was in court representing her mother-in-law. Glenn McConkey has severe Alzheimer's and dementia.

In that case, Curtis admitted he stole approximately $12 million.

“I just kept on staring at him going, ‘Wow, how can you be so evil?’” Sherry McConkey said. “I don’t believe his apology, so therefore I don’t accept it.”

READ: SLC attorney confesses to embezzling millions from family of famous skier

While addressing the court, Curtis agreed that his actions were "evil." He addressed some of the victims by name, referring to them as “dear friends” that he took advantage of.

“Unfortunately, most of everything they’ve said is true, and I’m very sorry about that,” Curtis said. “I accept responsibility. It’s my fault. I pray for them. I hope they pray for me.”

“If that man never speaks my name again, it would be too soon,” Hall responded.

Curtis withdrew his guilty plea after learning the judge found the plea deal “unreasonable.”

Some victims, like Matt Hess, said they were not sure how to feel, worried the case could now drag on or go to trial. Hess’ disabled daughter is one of the victims.

“It’s good and bad I guess,” Hess said. “It’s good in the sense that we might get something a little more out of this. He might get a few more years. I don’t think we’re going to find any more money.”

Judge David Barlow said he believed a more appropriate sentence would be somewhere between 8-10 years in prison, or 97 to 121 months.

He referred to Curtis’ actions as “unspeakable,” “calculated,” and “cold blooded.”

“It’s just about as terrible as a thing can be,” Barlow said. “So heinous and so devastating… Im not convinced he’s taken full accountability.”

Barlow gave credit to Curtis for cooperating with the investigation and forfeiting approximately $1.4 million. He said that he hopes both sides come together to reach a more reasonable plea deal in order to avoid trial.

The likelihood of the remaining $11 million being returned is "failingly small" if not "impossible."

Sixteen of the 26 victims will receive full restitution.

Greg Skordas, the defense attorney representing Curtis, declined to speak with media at the conclusion of the hearing.

Curtis is currently being held at the Salt Lake County Jail.