Friday, February 25, 2011

Salt Lake Tribune: Hammons Found Guilty in Massive Ponzi Scheme - Updated

Hammons played a major part in a classic case of affinity fraud as it is so widely practiced here in Utah amongst the faithful

By: Ozboy

The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting about William Hammons being found guilty in St. George last night for being a criminal perpetrator in Utah's biggest ponzi scheme ever:
For you who haven't been following this case, it was all about a big time scamster in Ogden named Val Southwick, who over ten years or so ripped off over a hundred million dollars from several hundred or so suckers - most associated with the LDS Church, as was he. It's a classic case of affinity fraud as it is so widely practiced here in Utah amongst the faithful.

Southwick is now doing most likely forever in the Utah State Joint. At his sentencing last year there was a long parade of witnesses who had their life savings stolen from them. And then there was Ogden's mayor, yep none other than Matt Godfrey - who never met a scammer or ponzi scheme he didn't absolutely love - and who testified FOR and to the good character of Mr. Southwick and begged the judge not to send his friend and mentor away to the nasty old prison that was really meant for bad guys, not fellow priesthood holder/scam artists!

To refresh your memories, here's the original (and incredible) 2008 KSL News Southwick post-sentencing hearing video story, wherein Godfrey "vigorously" (and unabashedly) goes to bat for one of his "bestest" scammer buddies:

Video Courtesy of

This Hammons fellow in St. George was the biggest hustler for Southwick and delivered up a whole bunch of suckers from St. George to be fleeced by the aforementioned high priest/lying thief and mayoral buddy. Turns out that Hammons is, or at least was, a Bishop and fellow High Priest leader - just like Southwick and Mayor Godfrey.

The upshot of this is that the KSL site and the Standard apparently do not find this big story all that big, and certainly not worth a mention in their publications today. So unless Ogden folks read the Salt Lake Tribune they will never know that another big time church leader was found guilty of felonies committed against fellow church members on a very grand scale. My guess is the mayor is pleased that this story has no legs in the Standard, lest the citizens once again get reminded of just who, and how sleazy his bestest buddies really are!

Update 2/26/11 4:36 a.m.: Per Curmudgeon we're informed that "the SE now has the Hammons conviction story up... the AP report":


goodfella said...

Is that why Scottie B is sailing about in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja? (rumor has it)

Arlene said...

It is interesting that the Church news outlets - KSL and Deseret News - have not covered this story since over a year ago when Bishop Hammons was first indicted. The Standard, as pointed out, isn't covering the verdict either - at least not yet.

Does this blog site scoop some of the media regularly on these sort of touchy news subjects?

Curmudgeon said...

You raise, Oz, an interesting question of news judgment. Putting myself in the place of the SE news editors, after reading your post, I tried to think what might have convinced me not to run this particular story as breaking news. Came up with a few reasons:

1. Val's conviction,etc. was an Ogden story. His company was located here. Mr. Hammon's is from what, St. George? So it's not really a local story, primarily.

2. The SE has shrunk these days to sadly thin proportions. There just isn't the kind of room there used to be for news stories in the paper today. Sadly thin. Given that, I suspect sometimes the editors have to make decisions about which of two stories is likely to be of more interest to TOU readers, something clearly local, and something only tangentially so. Maybe that figured in.

3. The story, they may have felt, was not urgent news. It could run as well a day or three after the fact on a space available basis. Not being a mostly local story, the pressure to get it in fast may not have been there.

I hasten to add that I would not necessarily have made the same decision. But I might have. I don't think we necessarily should conclude some Mormon Protective Association conspiracy was at work. [The original Val S. arrest, trail and conviction, and Hizzonah's testimony in favor of Val S. were covered in the SE as I recall.]

And I have not spoken to anyone at the SE about why this story was not covered as breaking news. The above speculations about the reasons behind the editor's news judgment on this are entirely my own entirely uninformed guesses.


Ozboy has scored a bigger win than the Jazz with this one!
Notable quotes from our mayor in this video:
Prisons are too overcrowded for white collar criminals.
He's faced up it and owned up to to the mistakes he made.
This is not a guy who tried to run.
His mistakes are really technical in nature.
Part of investing, that's the risk.
No mayor, this is not investing. This is a SCAM! He pled guilty because he is guilty.
817 investors and most of these being retirees bilked out of millions of dollars and he should walk?
No wonder Ogden City will not be lifting a finger in the illegal campaign funds investigation of FNURE, Envision Ogden and Blain Johnson.

blackrulon said...

It is very understandable why Godfrey did not think Val Southwick should go to prision. Godfrey was looking to his future and the type of appropriate punishment for his own schemes and unethical conduct. If he thinks Southwick should be allowed to stay out of jail he surely doesn't think his own actions are illegal.

Curmudgeon said...

OK, you guys have got to stop doing this. Forcing me to say nice things about Hizzonah. Puts me right off my feed, it does.

But... I've always kind of admired Hizzonah's testimony at Val's sentencing hearing. They were long time family friends, and Hizzonah stood by his friend to the end. Not an easy thing for an elected official to do, I'd think, under the circumstances --- Southwick's masterminding the largest single fraud in Utah business history. And I disagree completely with the Mayor's opinion of Southwick and his opinion of the seriousness of what he did [that it was merely poor judgment compounded by bad luck]. Still, when everyone else cut and ran on Southwick [with I agree good reason], Hizzonah, who also lost money in the debacle, stood by his friend. He had nothing to gain and something to lose politically by doing it, and maintaining a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger silence was clearly an option open to him. But he stood up, in court, on the record, and spoke for his friend.

That's not an entirely ignoble thing for him to have done.

Curmudgeon said...

The SE now has the Hammon's conviction story up. It's the AP report. You can find it here.

RudiZink said...

"But he stood up, in court, on the record, and spoke for his friend."

Nice try, Curm; but the cynics among us recognise this behavior for exactly what it most probably demonstrates:

Honor among thieves

d. wilson said...

If as you say, Curm, that the Mayor has a "friend" then I'm surprised. If his friend is a crook then I'm not surprised. Yes indeed, birds of a feather no doubt only one crooked friend is in jail and the other crooked friend is still with us. Can't win em all.

Curmudgeon said...

Sorry, D. Wilson, but I know people who've been convicted of theft. One was a friend. And I am not a thief. Suspicion by association may be a justified practice, but assuming guilt on the basis of nothing more than association is not. You want to argue that the Mayor's friendship with, trust in, investment with Mr. Southwick says something about his judgment, you'd get no argument from me. But so far as I can see, he had nothing whatever to gain post conviction by speaking out on the record for his friend, and -- as an elected official --- he had something to lose.

Marion said...

I think the real issue is the mayor's attitude about his friend's serial crimes which included multiple felonies against a very large number of people. For the mayor to classify these serious financial crimes as technical or minor errors pretty much shows every one where his ethics really stand.

Tired of being lectured to said...


How Curm can "admire" the mayor for pleading with the courts to show lenience for Southwick just goes beyond my comprehension. I can understand the mayor’s desire to support someone he thinks of as a friend but that’s something you do after justice has been served. You don’t try to influence the administration of justice to someone that has hurt so many people. It’s just wrong.

I have to chalk this up as another reason to marginalize a lot of the lines of reasoning or common sense shown on various issues that Curm decides to educate us on.

Curmudgeon said...

Off topic but worth a look: the SE has up tonight a story about the new water tanks a-building in the foothills above Ogden. You can find it here.

Here's the lead:

"OGDEN -- The city plans to put into service a new 300,000-gallon concrete tank at the top of 27th Street next month to significantly improve water pressure and fire protection along the East Bench.In addition to the tank, a well also at the top of 27th Street has been rehabilitated to provide an additional 1,000 gallons per minute to Ogden's water system, said City Engineer Justin Anderson."

And the headline: Some Ogden residents should enjoy better water pressure, fire protection thanks to new tank, well

d.wilson said...

Sorry Curm....
If I believed in guilt by association I might assume that you are a Godfrey supporter based on your incessant defense (nitpicking comes to mind) of the various factions associated with the little fella. As you bend over backwards to defend those who may be indefensible I hope you don't fall on your arse.

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