Frank Powell sentenced to federal prison in fraud ring case after ‘decades of rehabilitative attempts’ fail

Frank Gene Powell, 50, of Washington County, booking photo taken at San Joachin County Jail, French Camp, Calif., Oct. 15, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the San Joachin County Sheriff's Office, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Frank Powell, the alleged mastermind of a fraud ring that bilked an elderly woman out of more than $300,000, will now serve time in federal prison.

Powell, 51, appeared before U.S. District Judge David Nuffer during a sentencing hearing where he was ordered to serve 10 years in federal prison and pay more than $273,000 in restitution, according to court records. 

Powell, who has remained in custody since his arrest in October of last year, was also ordered to forfeit two vehicles, one of which was a 2019 GMC Sierra, and be on supervised release for three years following his release from federal prison, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday. 

U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said in the release that a 10-year prison sentence is appropriate for Powell, who is a “career criminal who has fended off decades of rehabilitative attempts” in the criminal justice system and will “help ensure that Utah will not fall victim to his crimes again.”

He called the defendant “a convicted murderer and sexual predator who has now turned his criminal efforts to elder fraud while on state parole.”

Powell was in fact on state parole at the time his federal crimes were committed. He was released in 2017 after serving nearly 30 years in Utah State Prison for murder. While in prison, he received a 1-15 year sentence for sexually assaulting another inmate.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Powell pleaded guilty to six of the 10 charges outlined in the indictment, avoiding a sentence of 90 years if the maximum penalty for each of the six charges were imposed, including one felony count each of wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering, concealment of a document or object and tampering with a witness, victim or informant. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of destruction of records and tangible objects in a federal investigation, according to the plea agreement filed March 11 in U.S. District Court.

Frank Gene Powell, 50, of Washington County, photo taken at Utah State Prison, Draper, Utah, date not specified | Photo courtesy of the Utah Department of Corrections, St. George News

Powell was one of eight individuals that were indicted back in November, including his mother, Gloria Gene Powell, and girlfriend, Faye Renteria. Also indicted were a number of family members and associates, including Terrence Quincy Powell and Martell Taz Powell, along with associates Bubby Mern Shepherd, Rocky James Mott and Angela McDuffie.

The crimes were viewed as “especially heinous” because Powell not only defrauded a senior member of the St. George community, “he made it a family affair,” Special Agent Paul Haertel of the FBI in Salt Lake City, said.

As a part of his plea agreement, Powell admitted that from around March 2019 until about Feb. 6, 2020, he conspired with the others to devise a fraud scheme with “the specific intent to obtain money or property by means of fraudulent representations or promises” by promising to perform work for the victim, federal authorities say.

He also engaged in romance fraud by enticing the victim to enter into a romantic relationship to manipulate the elderly woman into giving him money and assets. 

The money laundering charges were filed after authorities found that Powell reportedly used the money derived from criminal conduct, while a number of other charges were related to the efforts the defendant took to impede and obstruct the investigation of the case, including concealing cellular phones and money.

Gloria Jean Powell, 73, of St. George, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Oct. 15, 2019 | File photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Powell also pleaded guilty to witness tampering after he admittedly attempted to stop the victim from communicating with law enforcement officers investigating the case through letters and phone calls in November 2019, while his codefendant, Renteria, made misleading statements and attempted to get the victim to assist them in avoiding prosecution.

Frank Powell’s mother, 74-year-old Gloria Jean Powell, 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 after admitting she concealed money with the intent to impair an FBI investigation.

She also admitted to aiding and abetting her son, Frank Powell, and her daughter and codefendant in the case, 53-year-old McDuffie, during the scheme. She has agreed to forfeit a 2010 Toyota Venza as a part of the resolution of her case.

McDuffie, Terrence Quincy Powell and Martell Taz Powell are scheduled to go to trial on the charges in September.

Renteria, who is still in custody, has also entered into a plea agreement and will be sentenced July 15, facing up to 90 years in prison.

Two other defendants, Shepherd and Mott, have also entered guilty pleas, and, according to the stipulated sentence filed with the court, both are expected to be sentenced to serve 21 months in prison, subject to the court’s approval.

For the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah, combating elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority, as “elder abuse is a serious crime against some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” according to the release, abuse that affects about 1 in 10 older Americans each year.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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