WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah, Feb. 6, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — A federal grand jury returned a 10-count indictment Thursday afternoon charging eight people in connection with an alleged fraud scheme to obtain money and assets from an 80-year-old Washington County widow.
The indictment was unsealed Tuesday afternoon, said a news release from the FBI Salt Lake City.
“The indictment alleges the defendants, who have family relationships, conspired to obtain money and assets from the victim in exchange for false promises to perform work on her property,” the news release said. “To further advance the scheme, one of the defendants engaged in romance fraud by enticing the victim to enter into a romantic relationship. He used the romantic relationship to manipulate the victim into giving him money and assets.”
The indictment includes one count of wire fraud conspiracy, five counts of money laundering conspiracy– spending, two counts of destruction or concealment of records and tangible objects in a federal investigation, one count of concealment of a document or object, and one count of tampering with a witness or victim.
Those charged in the indictment are Frank Gene Powell, 51, of Hurricane, Bubby Mern Shepherd, 58, of Lodi, California, Gloria Jean Powell, 74, of St. George, Faye Ann Renteria, 42, of Hurricane, Terrence Quincy Powell, 23, of St. George, Rocky James Powell Mott, 40, of Hurricane, Martell Taz Powell, 25, of Cedar City, and Angela Ruth McDuffie, 53, of Lehi.
Seven of the eight defendants are in custody. Shepherd will have an initial appearance on the indictment in California Wednesday.
Frank Powell, Gloria Powell, Taz Powell, Mott, Renteria and McDuffie will have an initial appearance on the indictment at 9 a.m. Thursday in St. George, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Kohler. A summons was issued to Terrence Quincy Powell to appear at the hearing.
“The indictment alleges that starting around March 2019 through October 2019, several of the defendants began soliciting payments from the victim by offering to perform routine repairs and odd jobs on her property,” the news release said. “The victim created a list of requested repairs, such as painting the exterior of the house, resurfacing the driveway, doing yard work, hammering protruding nails on the roof, fixing a door handle on a car, removing grease spots on the driveway, and installing carpet on an outdoor deck.”
According to the indictment, most of the jobs they promised to do were never completed or the quality of work was extremely poor, the news release said. The victim paid the defendants at least $273,849.20, both indirectly and directly, for this work.
Frank Powell engaged in the romance fraud scam with the victim and told the victim that he intended to marry her while maintaining a domestic partnership with Renteria. According to the indictment, he is legally married to another woman not involved in the conspiracy.
The money laundering counts allege four defendants, Frank Powell, Gloria Powell, Taz Powell and Renteria, used money derived from their alleged unlawful activity to buy cars, a Polaris Razor, and a trailer.
Frank Powell and Renteria are charged with two counts of destruction of records or tangible objects in a federal investigation– specifically cell phones– in an effort to impede the investigation of the case. They are also charged with tampering with a victim in an effort to avoid prosecution. Powell and Renteria, according to the indictment, contacted the victim through written correspondence and phone calls in which they made misleading statements and attempted to persuade her to withhold information from law enforcement and help them avoid prosecution. Frank Powell and Faye Renteria were arrested on a federal complaint in November charging them with tampering with a victim or witness.
The potential maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud conspiracy, destruction or concealment of records or tangible objects in a federal investigation, concealment of a document or object, and tampering with a witness is 20 years in federal prison. The money laundering counts are up to 10 years per count.