A Stansbury Park man who targeted friends, members of his church and some of their relatives in a fraud scheme pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the affinity fraud scheme on March 7 in federal court.

Ronald Wayne Leavitt, 61, agreed that the total loss amount for the fraud was $679,420.55. He returned $160,000 of the money he obtained by fraud to three of the victims. He has agreed to pay $519,420.55 in restitution as a part of the plea agreement. U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells took the change of plea on March 7. Sentencing in the case is set for June 4, before U.S. District Judge David Nuffer.

The plea agreement includes a stipulated sentence of 36 months in federal prison, which is subject to the court’s approval and acceptance.

In a court document filed as a part of the plea agreement, Leavitt acknowledged that he told a variety of lies to friends and neighbors to get them to invest in his schemes. He told some that he owned several limousines while telling others he was the executor of a large trust fund and that he owned property worth millions of dollars. He also told some victims he had inherited millions of dollars from his parents. He also told victims that the investment opportunity was limited and, if they were lucky, he could get them a spot in the investment. He told other victims that an investor had pulled out and, although other investors would be upset, he would allow them to invest and make it work.

After gaining their trust, Leavitt admitted that he convinced several individuals to invest in one of three different ventures.

Leavitt pitched a real estate venture in California, a high-end real estate development venture in Moab called Hidden Mesa and a sugar substitute start-up company.

According to documents filed as a part of the plea agreement, Leavitt admitted that the real estate venture in California was an investment he fabricated.

The Hidden Mesa real estate development venture was an idea that Leavitt had discussed with an individual who had purchased land in Moab. This individual discussed with Leavitt the possibility of developing the land and talked with Leavitt about seeking investors for the project.

However, without this individual’s knowledge, Leavitt used the concept of the venture to pitch the investment opportunity to some of his neighbors and some of their family members, eventually persuading some of them to invest in the venture. He promised them returns as large as 300 percent within 60 to 90 days. Leavitt admitted that once they made an investment in the project, he never provided any of that money to the individual who had purchased the land in Moab.

The sugar substitute start-up company is an actual company that Leavitt’s brother was involved in. Leavitt had talked with his brother and another individual about trying to find investors. As a part of his scheme to defraud, Leavitt admitted he convinced individuals to invest in the company. Once they did, he did not inform the company of their investment or give them the money. As in the other two ventures, Leavitt admitted he kept the funds for himself and spent them.

Leavitt admitted at the plea hearing Wednesday that he spent the majority of the money he took from victims of the fraud schemes rather than investing it in anything.

Special agents of the FBI and members of its Financial Crimes Task Force are investigating the case, along with an IRS Criminal Investigation agent who was assigned to the task force. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City is prosecuting the case.

Ronald Leavitt bilks investors in Moab-area investment project