Case file Kitts:
By late September 2009, Brian Kitts was already more than two years into his case of alleged securities fraud brought by the Utah Division of Securities against a nutritional supplement company owned by Kitts for securities fraud and theft. Kitts, a soft-spoken 52-year-old Toronto, Canada, native says his business practices have been aboveboard, but he does admit he screwed up in 2009 when he agreed to meet with Lawson about his case.
“[Lawson] said, ‘I need $20,000. There are certain things I have to do with that money, certain places that money’s got to go,’ ” Kitts recalls. Kitts agreed he would avail himself of Lawson’s services but told him he could not give him $20,000 up front but would make smaller, periodic payments.
Kitts recalls Lawson calling him only days later saying: “I need $9,000 for Shurtleff, and I need it tonight or tomorrow night—cash.” [Shurtleff says he never received any donations from Kitts nor does he know who he is. Shurtleff’s campaign report shows that no donations were received from Kitts or Lawson.] Kitts said he refused this request.
“That’s a flat-out lie,” Lawson says of Kitts claims that Lawson was seeking money for Shurtleff. Lawson says that while he talked to Kitts, he never really took on his case, believing Kitts to be “disingenuine [sic] to the core.”
Kitts says Lawson’s first instruction was for Kitts to hire Lawson’s personal attorney to handle his case. Beyond that, Kitts soon began to doubt Lawson could follow up on his talk.
On April 30, 2010, Kitts says he received in one day 14 text messages from Lawson, telling him that he was losing his house and needed more money. According to Kitts, this was not a polite request—it was a threat.
Kitts says one text demanded he pay $7,000 or Lawson would see to it that Kitts landed in jail. When Kitts told Lawson he was threatening extortion, “[Lawson] said, ‘I don’t give a fuck what it is, I am untouchable in this state.’ ”
When asked about this text by a reporter, Lawson dismissed it: “I don’t recall. To be honest with you, I actually do have a medical condition, neurological, that I don’t remember things from one day to the next sometimes.” Lawson says a recent MRI scan showed a number of tumors in his brain. He believes these tumors may be affecting his memory.
“I don’t honestly recall. So whether that’s true or not, I don’t really care,” Lawson says. “I don’t like the man.”
Both Kitts and Lawson say developments in Kitts’ case speak to each other’s credibility. Kitts in late October 2010 had entered into a plea agreement after two years of negotiating with the state. What originally was recommended in 2009 to be two misdemeanor charges of failure to disclose facts to investors were in 2010 bumped up to felony charges that included theft. Kitts says that by establishing a trust account that would allow investors in his company to cash out if they so chose, the attorney Lawson recommended told him he would face only one year of probation. After Kitts agreed, he says he discovered that his attorney failed to disclose to him that by pleading to a felony he would likely be deported back to Canada, since Kitts is currently only a temporary resident.
Kitts says that between jail time or deportation, he chose to move back in with family in Alberta, Canada, while his new attorneys attempt to withdraw his plea agreement based on the March 2010 Padilla vs. Kentucky U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires defense lawyers to fully brief their clients on immigration ramifications involved when they make plea deals—something Kitts says was never explained to him by the attorney Lawson recommended.
Lawson, in turn called a reporter to point out that Kitts had “fled jurisdiction. … These are the kinds of people you’re dealing with,” Lawson said.
As for Kitts, he admits the situation looks bad but says he had no choice. “I never asked for this to happen,” Kitts says. “You don’t know what it’s like when you’ve got this freight train coming down on you and your family, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”
Case file Jenson:
“The Godfather Part II”
While Lawson may have hosted Shurtleff in California in the summer of 2009 while he was employed by Jenson, Lawson appears to have been busy with Jenson on another front—fighting for ownership of Mount Holly. At the time, Mount Holly partners such as Shane Gadbaw were seeking to continue development without Jenson and his brother. Gadbaw and the Jenson brothers ended up in a litigation dispute over who could develop the property. Their case was resolved in October 2009, and Gadbaw and partners have since reopened the ski resort as Eagle Point and changed it from a destination resort for the uber-rich to a public ski resort.
In a letter sent by Shane Gadbaw’s attorney, Kevin Reed, to Lawson, the attorney challenged Lawson for threatening his client on April 6, 2009, while supposedly acting as a “corporate facilitator” on behalf of Marc Sessions Jenson.
“You told Mr. Gadbaw that the arbitration would fail; that he should be worried about criminal charges; and that you had been present in the office of the Utah Attorney General when the criminal charges you were speaking about had been discussed,” Reed writes. The letter attached several text messages sent by Lawson to Gadbaw. One message sent from Lawson on April 8 indicated that Lawson, “can be a persons best friend or Not. Either way I’m not someone that deals lightly with my commitment to do what I set out to do!” [sic]. [Gadbaw would not comment for this story but did acknowledge Lawson’s attempts at lobbying him.]
In a text sent April 18, 2009, Lawson hinted that he would fly to New York to tell investors about pending criminal charges: “I truly look forward to matching my specific set of skills up against what I’ve heard of ur’s! This will be fun! So bro when I get into NY next week u buy dinner 1st I’ll getvit the next time! [sic]”
An hour later, Lawson texted again to elaborate on his plans: “Oh by the way boys I have 6 CRIMINAL complaints that I’m bringing with me to share with all that have interest in ur activities. We can do this easy or hard. My preference is hard but that’s just me!?!”
Lawson again does not deny involvement in the corporate sparring, but denies that he heard about any criminal complaints from the Attorney General’s Office, insisting he heard about the complaints through his sources. Shurtleff likewise says Lawson would never be privy to any of his office’s official business. “I don’t discuss potential litigation or criminal prosecutions with him,” Shurtleff says. No criminal complaints have been filed against Gadbaw.
Ironically, in the April 8, 2009, text message, Lawson says in the same line that he is “black and white no gray & can be a persons best friend or Not.” When asked what Lawson was suggesting by saying he could be a person’s best friend or not or do things the hard way or the easy way, Lawson draws a blank.
“I don’t recall. I’m not avoiding your question, I’m just saying I don’t recall,” Lawson says. Case file Marshall Islands: “Slipstream”
On Feb. 22, 2010, Lawson and his wife, Nicole, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy with $545,235 in unsecured claims still owed to creditors. Lawson’s Provo home is up for sale and his Orem residence is being rented out. Lawson maintains he still lives in Utah but declines to say where.
Strangely, for the number of outstanding debts Lawson owes to debt-collection companies and various hospital billing agencies, his bankruptcy filings mention little of his company.
After launching a now-defunct hovercraft company, Slipstream International, Lawson’s e-mails cheerily closed with the quotation, “Keeping the Tropics Tropical!” which is a reference to his company’s plan to provide transportation service in the Marshall Islands. It was for this venture that Lawson sought Shurtleff’s help in seeking capital financing. In a letter dated Feb. 12, 2009, Shurtleff wrote a recommendation for Lawson, praising Lawson’s business acumen: “Over the last 11 years, Mr. Lawson has become a close personal friend,” reads Shurtleff’s letter, “and has demonstrated professional capabilities in business organization, management and administration.”
While this letter indicates Lawson’s hovercraft company was seeking financing, Lawson says he never spoke to investors about his company, insisting that his company operated on “private donations” from confidential donors interested in the humanitarian work Lawson hoped to do in the Marshall Islands.
“The Marshall Islands is in a state of emergency, people are dying because they can’t get off their island to get to a hospital because they got a simple infection,” Lawson says. “I wanted to see what I could do to help.”
When asked if he might have taken advantage of his time in the Marshall Islands to set up offshore bank accounts (since the Marshall Islands are a well-known tax haven), Lawson scoffs at the suggestion.
“Now, Dude, No.1—that’s none of your business, and No. 2, if you would go down to the Marshall Islands and ask about me, they would arrest you,” Lawson says referring to laws in the Marshall Islands that prevent people from asking about banking activities on the islands.
“Even if I did—which I didn’t, by the way—but if I had, you wouldn’t have known about it, because it’s confidential. There’s a law down there, that if you go poking around with that shit, they’ll arrest your ass.”
As with the transportation-challenged residents of the Marshall Islands, Lawson remains committed to helping people. As testament to his good work, he says it’s natural that people like Gadbaw and Kitts will be critical because that just comes with the territory.
“There’s a lot of people out there who don’t like me,” Lawson says. “I don’t give a flying monkey’s ass if they like me or not—this is America, they can go fuck themselves. But there are also people here who would trust me with their lives—with their children’s lives.”