In December 2010, Mr. X’s debts were discharged by the bankruptcy court, but Johnson’s complaint challenging the dischargability of his debt to her is still pending.
Today, Johnson feels guilt over losing money that she feels belonged to her children. “When he put me and my family in jeopardy, he crossed the line. He said he would never do anything to hurt me or my family, but that is exactly what he did.”
Mr. X would not return numerous calls from City Weekly to respond to this story. His attorney sent an e-mail to City Weekly, saying, “[Mr. X] is not a public figure. The dispute between Ms. Johnson and [Mr. X] is a matter between two private figures and is not a legitimate public concern. [Mr. X] believes that the validity of Ms. Johnson’s claims should be decided by a court of law and not by the media.”
Keith Woodwell, director of the Utah Division of Securities, considers stories like Johnson’s a classic case of investment fraud, which occurs when a person invests money in someone else’s business with the expectation of generating a return. “In such ‘affinity fraud’ cases, a great opportunity is pitched to someone, usually someone the con man knows. In a handful of cases, a romantic relationship is struck up.” Woodwell adds, “You are far more likely to be swindled by someone you know and trust than by a stranger calling to pitch to you.”
Woodwell says such frauds are very common in Utah, with about 4,000 victims and $1.4 billion in losses currently being investigated or prosecuted. “Using the people that already trust you through a social group—friends and family or a religious congregation—is a way of marketing your scam,” he says.
“I’ll Pay You Back, Babe”
Despite having met at a bar where a friend had introduced them, Laura Lee believed she had met a squared-away businessman. As she began dating Dale Clark Lloyd in May 2007, she thought he owned a nice house in Draper and two paid-off cars. When they dined at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, he paid in cash. Their restaurant meals were often accompanied by a $200 bottle of wine. After six months, he begged her to move into his home.
Today, Lee feels that his deception arose from his wanting to live a high-end lifestyle that he was no longer able to have because of other extenuating circumstances that also involved deception.
In Lee’s opinion, he played on the fact that she had a psychology degree to craft stories that would invoke her empathy. He talked about how his parents abused him to induce her compassion. She isn’t sure whether he had a job. “I dropped him off at work a couple of times, but usually, he dropped me off and took my car. Within six months, he put 20,000 miles on my car. Where it was driven, I don’t know.”
Laura Lee was debt-free when she met him. In criminal complaints and civil lawsuits that Lee later filed against Lloyd, she says that he convinced her to sell her paid-off car and give him the money for a REIT, a real-estate investment trust related to a development company he owned in Texas that built shopping malls. He claimed her $10,000 investment would be worth $60,000 in two years. “When he put the money into his investment account, he put it under his name rather than mine, because he supposedly had more clout in the investment world.” She also says he convinced her to buy another car with a $70,000 price tag, telling her she could sell it in a year and get back the money she was saving for law school. “He said that debt gets you up in the morning.”
Like Johnson, Lee found herself paying for expensive dinners. “If I said I didn’t want to pay for that, that we should stay home and save money, he would say, ‘I’ll pay you back, Babe.’ ” She claims she loaned him $2,000 to retrieve an unspecified item from a pawnshop. Today, she feels he targeted her because they met in a bar, and he didn’t think she would investigate his background.
But Lee’s feelings that things weren’t right grew stronger as their relationship grew more tumultuous. Multiple court documents filed against Lloyd in both civil and criminal actions indicate he never provided her a prospectus on the investment. She says she asked him three times for a prospectus on an investment. “He would say, ‘I didn’t pick it up today’ or ‘It’s a two-year investment, you knew that going in,’ ” she recalls. “Eventually, I stopped asking, because I knew intuitively that my money was gone.” She recalls him saying when they met that he was clean after previously using drugs. As their relationship began to unravel, she heard him say he was using again. She moved into his home in November 2007 and moved out in January 2008. “He kicked me out after my significant savings were almost gone.”
Lee says he claimed to be 43. Researching his background, she discovered he was actually 48 and had been married three times before, rather than once as he claimed. She found that he was four months behind in his mortgage payments. Court documents confirm that she had moved into a home scheduled for foreclosure.
Because he’d written a contract for the investment, Lee sued him civilly for breach of contract and obtained a judgment against him, then turned him in to the Utah Division of Securities. Their investigations showed that he had a prior bankruptcy in 2005.
Despite numerous attempts to locate Lloyd, he could not be contacted for this story. City Weekly was able to contact one of Lloyd’s attorneys. He offered to pass along a request to be interviewed for this story. Lloyd did not contact the paper.
Both court documents and Woodwell confirm that the man Lee lived with, Dale Lloyd, pleaded guilty to a second-degree felony of communications fraud in December 2010. He received a plea in abeyance and is required to pay Lee $10,000 in restitution, in $300 monthly increments, to the Utah Attorney General’s Office. As of press time, Lloyd was current with his payments.
“It took me three years to climb out of the hole I was in. I borrowed $20,000 from my parents,” she says. “Today, I don’t ever tell anybody how much money I have—even if I just have $5 in my purse.”
A Broke Bloke
After meeting Nick Ashton on PlentyOfFish.com in January 2008, Kathy Reavis was immediately sucked in by his British accent. Online, he showed her a U.K. glass-coverings firm that his brother owned, saying he took care of the U.S. market. Ashton stood her up on the first date, but then called to apologize profusely, saying he’d been in a car accident. “We dated for a year. He was intelligent, witty and charming. He was always standing me up, but always had reasons.” She broke up with him over the “standing up” issue, then reconsidered. “This guy is a successful, busy businessman. Do I want my pride to stand in the way of a relationship I care about?” she asked herself.
Reavis says that Ashton claimed to be recovering financially following a divorce. “He said he was trying to get everything settled so that we could be together permanently,” Reavis says.
Reavis says she first loaned Ashton money in March 2008 when he said he forgot his wallet. “The first time it was $60 for gas so he could get to work. Later, he said he was an identity-theft victim whose debit card was compromised.” The story made sense to Reavis because her ex-husband had experienced identity theft.
Reavis says that Ashton claimed to have money coming in from the U.K. and that the government had frozen his funds. “He said he had no access to his account and needed to leave on a 10-day business trip to Philadelphia,” says Reavis. She wrote him a $960 check, considering the original $60 as part of the loan. “He portrayed himself as a successful businessman who was a little financially tight at the moment, between his divorce and the government freezing his funds,” says Reavis.
They often went out to dinner together—Reavis became fed up with paying for it. She says Ashton always gave the same two reasons why they never went to his place. “He lived in Provo and said he didn’t want to make me do the long drive. He said he was embarrassed where he was living right now, because of the divorce. He said it was more convenient for him to come to my place. I kept telling myself that if we weren’t living together by a certain date, it would be over—but I kept pushing the date back in my mind. He was totally charming. With his voice, it was not only the accent—it was so soothing, the perfect tenor.” Reavis today wonders why she chose Nick, who told her, “You amuse me.”
In June 2011, Reavis sued Ashton in small claims court and was awarded a default judgment in the sum of $1,020. He was ordered to pay $100 per month and has made partial, but not all, the required monthly payments. In the hearing, Ashton accused Reavis of stalking him after she established a blog about her experiences and other people began to contact her. Her efforts led to the discovery of a network of individuals and businesses in several states who say Ashton has scammed them. An Idaho couple received a $46,256 judgment against him in February 2011, which, according to Idaho attorney Lyle Fuller—who represented the couple—stemmed from activities that included trespass, fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.