Salt Lake Tribune, Nov. 8, 2002
A judge has dismissed claims against a half-dozen defendants in a lawsuit that accuses Salt Lake County polygamist patriarch Owen Allred of bilking a former actress out of $1.5 million.
But the case continues against Allred — who leads a Bluffdale-based polygamist sect of about 3,500 — as well as about two dozen other defendants, including a number of businesses connected to Allred’s group, the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB).
Virginia Hill claims she was duped out of the money by a pair of Allred’s followers and that the polygamist leader later approved a plan to funnel the cash into a church-owned housing development and other AUB businesses.
After Hill’s lawyer, Don Redd, rested his case in a Nephi courtroom Tuesday, 4th District Judge Donald Eyre heard arguments on a motion to dismiss filed by Bel-Ami de Montreux, the Salt Lake City attorney representing most of the defendants.
Eyre declined to toss the entire suit, but dismissed claims against three members of Allred’s group and three business entities connected to the AUB.
“They did not have one shred of evidence against these people,” de Montreux said Thursday, adding: “This is the beginning of the collapse of [Hill’s] case, which has been nothing but a fantasy.”
Redd acknowledged that he did not present evidence against those released from the litigation, but seemed confident he would prevail against the remaining defendants.
“I can’t imagine not getting a judgment. The only question is — how much?” Redd said.
In the suit, filed in Juab County in 1997, Hill says she gave defendants John Putvin and Dennis Matthews $1.5 million in cash through her “agent,” a wandering polygamist preacher named John Shugart. The money was to be used to purchase the Desert Inn Ranch in southern Utah, but instead went to fund AUB projects after Allred conspired to fraudulently launder the money, Hill alleges.
Putvin, who is representing himself at trial, does not deny receiving Hill’s money, but points to the plaintiff’s own affidavit, in which Hill says she “approved to invest the money into various businesses.”
The money gradually disappeared as those businesses failed, Putvin says.
The trial resumes Nov. 19 in front of Eyre, who is hearing the case in lieu of a jury.