UPDATE: Utah real estate lawyer pleads guilty after defrauding millions from clients

Local News

UPDATE: 11/16/21 8:30 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – A Utah real estate lawyer has pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering after he embezzled $9.5 million from clients.

Calvin Curtis, 61, has agreed to spend 73 months in federal prison and pay $9.5 million in restitution after he admitted to defrauding money from clients of his estate planning law firm based in Salt Lake City, known as Calvin Curtis Attorney at Law PLLC.

In the plea agreement, Curtis admitted that he specializes in special needs trusts and that beginning in January 2008, he began a fraudulent scheme to defraud a client known as “G.M.” out of money.

Due to his role, Curtis had access to millions of dollars in two different trust accounts belonging to victim G.M. and that he transferred at least $9.5 million intended for the care of G.M. into his own accounts and then used this money for his own personal use. Curtis admitted that he also created fake financial statements and submitted these to the court ordered conservator of G.M. to conceal the fraud.

In pleading guilty to the wire fraud charge, Curtis admitted that on January 25, 2018, he caused a wire communication from a Schwab Investment Account to his own Wells Fargo account, resulting in a transfer of over $1.4 million.

Curtis said that he used the money for his own personal benefit to make mortgage payments on his combined home and office located on South Temple Street in Salt Lake City, Utah; to support a lavish lifestyle with frequent travel; to purchase tickets to basketball and football games; to give lavish gifts to others; and to support the operations of his law firm.

In pleading guilty to the money laundering count, Curtis admitted that he fraudulently caused $135,000 to be transferred online from G.M. to his own Wells Fargo account, and that he used these funds to wire $95,000 to The Fechtel Company for the remodel of his home in Tampa, Florida. Curtis admitted that he knew these transactions were illegal at the time they occurred, and that the money was not used for the benefit of G.M.

At this time, it is alleged that Curtis embezzled funds from at least 22 additional trusts in amounts more than $9.5 million.

“Calvin Curtis’ greed had devastating consequences for his clients, who placed their trust and money in his hands,” said Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the Salt Lake City FBI. “Sadly, financial fraud cases like this are not limited to a few victims. We hope this case sends a strong message that the FBI will do what it takes to make sure such crimes don’t go unpunished.”

Anyone who believes they may be a victim of this crime is encouraged to call the FBI at (801) 579-1400 to file a report.

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ORIGINAL STORY: Utah real estate lawyer charged with defrauding clients

FRIDAY 11/16/21 12:44 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4)- Court documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office say Salt Lake City-based real estate lawyer Calvin Curtis is being accused of defrauding his clients between January 2008 and July 2021.

In one instance, Curtis allegedly sold real estate to a client for roughly $9.2 million. However, the client only got $7.5 million and Curtis pocketed $1.7 million for himself. 

On at least three other occasions, Curtis created fake statements and sent them to a court-appointed conservator for one of his clients. The statements provided “false accounting for her trust,” according to court documents, when in reality, Curtis was transferring that money into either his law firm’s account or his personal account.

He then used that money to remodel his own property on East South Temple, just down the street from the University of Utah. 

“He also used proceeds to support a lavish lifestyle with frequent travel, to purchase tickets to basketball and football games, to give lavish gifts to others, and to support the operations of his law firm,” court documents read.

On Jan. 25, 2018, Curtis put a wire transfer for $1.4 million to his own bank account from a client’s Charles Schwabb investment account. Later that year in May, he transferred an additional $135,000 from the same client’s bank account to his own account.

In total, Curtis is accused of diverting funds from at least 23 other trusts where he embezzled over $9.5 million. He is charged with one count each of wire fraud and money laundering. His property on South Temple is currently on the market where it is listed for $2.5 million.

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