By Ben Lockhart
SALT LAKE CITY – Paul Taylor didn’t come to court Monday looking for revenge.
Taylor came looking for closure.
Taylor said he and his wife have endured sleepless nights since losing the money they invested with convicted Fruit Heights businessman Dee Allen Randall.
“Financially, we’re not going to make it. We (decided to) sell our house,” he said.
But at Randall’s sentencing Monday, Taylor said he knew that moving on was his only choice, regardless of what ultimately happened to the man who threw his life into a tailspin.
“I came here to find some peace, maybe. Somehow, as victims, we have to let it go. … My heart bleeds for everybody here, as well as myself,” Taylor said, looking around at the 3rd District courtroom that was filled to capacity.
Randall, 66, was sentenced Monday to nine to 30 years in the Utah State Prison for running a Ponzi scheme that authorities called one of the largest in the state’s history.
According to court documents, Randall conned about 700 people nationwide into investing more than $72 million into various businesses, properties and other ventures. The fraud lasted from at least 2006 through early 2011.
“You have literally ruined a number of people. … What’s been done to them is something our society is not going to stand for. Period,” 3rd District Judge Mark Kouris told Randall before sentencing him.
The state is seeking at least $36.8 million in connection with the five charges Randall pleaded guilty to in July 2016. A restitution hearing is set for May 15. Another 15 charges were dismissed when he pleaded guilty to four counts of securities fraud and one counts of carrying out a pattern of unlawful activity, all second- degree felonies.
Assistant Utah Attorney General Jake Taylor painted a grim picture of the devastation left in Randall’s wake. He said lost retirement accounts, requiring victims to work several more years than planned if not for the rest of their lives, were just a small part of “the far-reaching harm and damage he has caused.”
“Even if he paid (full restitution) today, the damage is done,” Taylor said. “Diminished health, anxiety, stress – those things were huge.”
Taylor said Randall’s victims lost homes, couldn’t help children or grandchildren with education expenses, forfeited the ability to visit family members who lived away from Utah and even went without major medical care.
During the two-hour hearing, Randall said he has not “had a day” in several years in which he hasn’t felt heartache over the fate of those who invested their money with him.
“I know that doesn’t do them any good,” he said.
Randall also asked that he be allowed to avoid prison time so that he can work and be better equipped to pay restitution.
“Your honor, it goes without saying, I don’t want to go to prison. … I am determined to work every day of my life to pay back as much as I can,” he said.
Kouris ruled against that argument, saying any money Randall could earn to pay restitution to victims would be a minuscule fraction of their losses.
Randall was handcuffed and led out a side door with little show of emotion from anyone in the courtroom, though he was not without his supporters. Two daughters testified on Randall’s behalf, as did a handful of investors who said they had lost money by investing with him.
Bonnie Nelson of Fruit Heights said she lost money but didn’t want him to serve prison time.
“I know that mistakes were made, especially in the end,” she said. “I still feel he was a good man who never meant for his investors to suffer.”
Other investors passionately disagreed with Nelson.
“He promised you the moon, but everything he said was a lie,” Michael Perkins said. He favored prison time for Randall.
“It might set an example for other people to think twice,” he said.
Another investor, Ray Child, said he was stunned by Randall’s brazen attitude at an earlier bankruptcy hearing. According to Child, Randall told him then that what he did amounted to “a legal Ponzi scheme.”
“He didn’t tell me he was sorry,” said Child, who also asked that Randall be sentenced to prison. “I was just cast adrift.”
Joseph Schern, who lost $150,000 with Randall, wasn’t buying the argument that significant restitution could be made.
“He would have to pay like $5,000 a day,” Schern said. “I don’t think that holds water an awful much.”
Keith Woodwell, director of the Utah Securities Division, said at the hearing that prison time was warranted.
“This is probably one of the two or three most egregious cases (ever in Utah). … If he’s not sent to prison, I don’t see any white-collar crime where prison would be appropriate,” Woodwell said.
Court documents say Randall defrauded victims by telling them their money was invested in residential and commercial properties and an auto loan business, among other entities, but he was actually using their funds to pay off previous investors.
Some of Randall’s businesses were Horizon Mortgage & Investment, Horizon Financial & Insurance Group, Horizon Auto Funding and Horizon Financial Center, according to court documents.
Credit: By Ben Lockhart Deseret News