ST. GEORGE, UT – A St. George man will serve 24 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a financial fraud scheme that took advantage of the trust of a couple who were members of a church congregation he attended. The sentence includes an enhancement for causing substantial hardship to the victim.
U.S. District Judge David Nuffer, who imposed the sentence Thursday, also ordered Gregory Moats Sampson, age 46, to pay $250,000 in restitution to the couple and to serve 36 months of supervised release when he finishes the prison sentence.
“Affinity fraud continues to hurt Utahns. Scammers will use any social connection available to gain your trust and take your money,” said Chris Parker, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Commerce. “We are grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the cooperative effort with our Division of Securities.”
“Many of our federal fraud prosecutions focus on losses in the millions. With this case, Utah fraudsters should take note of the stiff penalties that await them in smaller cases, as well. There is no sweet spot in fraud loss where schemers can fly under the radar and get away with it,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said today. “Once again, we remind Utah investors to beware of the risks associated with big promises from purported friends and neighbors.”
According to documents filed in court by federal prosecutors and a plea agreement reached in the case, Sampson met the victims, identified as J.S. and K.S., around 2012 when he was their real estate agent. J.S. had $250,000 to invest after selling a home in Australia. Sampson, according to the court documents, told them he had invested funds for others in the past and he could help them invest the $250,000.
J.S. and K.S. were not sophisticated investors and believed they could trust Sampson based on other relationships they had with them. He told them that by investing with him, they could realize a return of $1 million in 8 to 10 years and that they would receive stock certifications in a company. He told them that since they were friends, he would not charge them for their investment.
The victims trusted Sampson and in February 2014, they wrote him a check for $250,000 to Sampson’s business account as an investment for retirement.
Sampson spent the money for his own personal use rather than investing it as promised. He used $98,320.19 to pay off a personal loan; transferred $82,000 to a company owned by his brother, and transferred $20,000 to a company he owned that had nothing to do with an investment. In fact, Sampson used all of the $250,000 of the victims’ investment within one month, federal prosecutors said.
When the victims sought documentation showing a portfolio of investments, Sampson did not provide any. However, he consistently told them their investment was performing well. According to documents filed in court, when J.S. and K.S. eventually confronted Sampson and demanded documentation or their money back, he told them “And you know who gets screwed in the deal? You do…and it’s not to say that I’m trying to protect my own ass because I’m not going anywhere, I promise you, if I need to disappear, I would have already been gone. I’ve got enough money that I can disappear if I need to…”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Utah U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case. Investigators with the Utah Division of Securities investigated the case.