GEORGE, UT – Frank Gene Powell, age 51, of Hurricane, Utah, the lead
defendant in a significant federal elder fraud case targeting an
80-year-old widow in Washington, Utah, will serve 10 years in federal
prison and pay $273,849.20 in restitution to the victim of the fraud
scheme. U.S. District Judge David Nuffer imposed the sentence Thursday
morning in St. George.
Powell pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit wire fraud,
money laundering, two counts of destruction of records in a federal
investigation, concealment of a document or object in an attempt to
impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official
proceeding, and tampering with a witness.
Powell, who is in custody, will also forfeit two vehicles and be on
supervised release for three years following his release from federal
Powell was on state parole at the time of his federal crimes after
serving nearly 30 years in state prison for murder. While he was in
prison, he received a 1-to-15 year sentence for sexually assaulting an
As a part of his plea agreement, Frank Powell admitted that from
around March 2019 and continuing until about Feb. 6, 2020, he conspired
with others to devise a fraud scheme with the specific intent to obtain
money or property by means of fraudulent representations or promises.
He agreed with his codefendants to engage in a scheme to defraud the
victim by soliciting money and assets in exchange for false promises to
perform work for the victim. He also admitted he engaged in a fake
romantic relationship with the victim as a part of his scheme to defraud
He admitted that he purchased a 2019 GMC Sierra using money he
received as a part of his scheme to defraud the victim. Using money
derived from criminal conduct is money laundering. Several of the
counts he pleaded guilty to relate to efforts he took to impede and
obstruct the investigation of the case, including concealing cellular
phones and money.
Powell also pleaded guilty to witness tampering admitting that in
November 2019, he attempted to stop the victim from communicating with
law enforcement officers investigating the case. Through written
correspondence and phone calls, Powell and his codefendant, Faye
Renteria, age 42, of Hurricane, made misleading statements and attempted
to get the victim to assist them in avoiding prosecution.
“Powell is a career criminal who has fended off decades of
rehabilitative attempts in the Utah state criminal justice system. He’s
a convicted murderer and sexual predator, who has now turned his
criminal efforts to elder fraud while on state parole,” U.S. Attorney
for Utah John W. Huber said today. “With these guilty pleas, he stands
convicted of unconscionable crimes against a senior member of the St.
George community. A 10-year sentence is very appropriate in this case
and will help ensure that Utah will not fall victim to his crimes
"This crime is especially heinous because Frank Powell not only
deceived and defrauded the victim, he made it a family affair," said
Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel of the Salt Lake City FBI. "As a
society, we should be looking out for the elderly, not exploiting them.
Crimes like this will be aggressively investigated, and we encourage
the public to immediately report any fraud to law enforcement or the
Eight defendants were charged in a 10-count superseding indictment
returned by a federal grand jury in January. The indictment alleged 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 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 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. To further advance the scheme, Frank Powell 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.
According to the indictment, most of the jobs they promised to do
were never completed or the quality of work was extremely poor and fell
well below any expectation of professionally done work. The victim paid
the defendants at least $273,849.20, both indirectly and directly, for
The indictment included 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.
Frank Powell’s mother and codefendant, Gloria Jean Powell, age 74, of
St. George, was sentenced to time served on May 1, 2020, after pleading
guilty to one count of concealment of a document or object, admitting
she concealed or attempted to conceal U.S. currency with the intent to
impair an FBI investigation. She admitted she aided and abetted her
son, Frank Powell, and her daughter, Angela McDuffie, age 53, of Lehi,
in the conduct. She also agreed to forfeit a 2010 Toyota Venza as a
part of the resolution of her case.
Sentencing is set for July 15, 2020, for Renteria, who pleaded guilty
May 7, 2020, to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, two counts
of money laundering, two counts of destruction of records or tangible
objects designed to impede the FBI’s investigation in the case, and
witness tampering. Among other things, she admitted she engaged in
misleading conduct involving the victim in the case in an attempt to
prevent or delay her from communicating with law enforcement regarding
the commission of a federal crime.
Renteria faces sentences of up to 20 years for conspiracy to commit
wire fraud, up to 10 years for each count of money laundering, up to 20
years for each count of destruction of records or tangible objects in a
federal investigation, and up to 10 years for the witness tampering
conviction. Renteria is in custody.
Bubby Mern Shepherd, age 58, of Lodi, California, and Rocky James
Powell Mott, age 40, of Hurricane, also have entered guilty pleas.
Shepherd pleaded guilty last week to one count of conspiracy to commit
wire fraud. Mott pleaded guilty Wednesday to the same count. Plea
agreements for Shepherd and Mott, who are both in custody, include a
stipulated sentence of 21 months in prison for the conviction. The
sentence is subject to the approval of the court.
Cases are pending against McDuffie, Terrence Quincy Powell, age 24,
of St. George, and Martell Taz Powell, age 25, of Cedar City. A Sept.
22, 2020, trial date is set in the case.
Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a
key priority of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s
Office in Utah. Elder abuse is a serious crime against some of our
nation’s most vulnerable citizens, affecting at least 10 percent of
older Americans every year. Together with federal, state, local and
tribal partners, the Department of Justice is committed to combatting
all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement
actions, training and resources, research, victim services, and public
awareness. This holistic and robust response demonstrates the
Department’s unwavering dedication to fighting for justice for older
Assistant U.S. Attorneys in Utah are prosecuting the case. The FBI
is investigating the case. Agents with Utah Adult Probation and Parole
have made signification contributions to the investigation.