It is ironic that the state filed 50 felony charges against C. Dean Larsen on the same day the federal government announced a 34-count grand jury indictment against J. Gary Sheets.
Officials say the charges against Sheets, 54, and Larsen, 53, are unrelated and their timing is purely coincidental. But the two men's lives have been intertwined for 35 years, since the day they started college together at the University of Utah in the fall of 1953.A local physician, who asked not to be named, went to college with Larsen and Sheets. The three enrolled as freshmen together, he said. Larsen and Sheets were fraternity brothers in the Sigma Chi fraternity.
"They've always been good friends, both in business and socially," the doctor said.
In college, Larsen and Sheets both had an interest in medicine and law. Sheets intended to go on to medical school, he told the Deseret News in a 1983 interview. But shortly before graduation, his interest switched to law and he applied for law school.
"I entered law school for three days," he said.
Larsen lasted longer. He graduated from the U. law school. But much of his law practice focused on medicine. Larsen specialized in helping doctors' offices incorporate their businesses, and he helped the doctor incorporate his clinic in 1972, the physician said.
After college, Sheets went into insurance.
The three college buddies stayed in touch. Larsen was Sheets' lawyer for a time. When Sheets sold the doctor an insurance policy in February 1971, Larsen drew up the papers and notarized the documents, the doctor said.
Larsen and Sheets both started investment companies in 1971. Larsen started Granada Inc., and Sheets started CFS. Both asked the doctor to invest in their companies. He obliged.
CFS was a financial planning and property management company that later branched out into pension plans, renewable resources, energy-related projects, equipment leasing and a gold mining operation.
Granada managed, developed and sold real estate. It also was a real estate brokerage sale company.
In the early years, both companies flourished. In 1983, Sheets told the Deseret News CFS was averaging 80 percent growth a year. Granada did as well.
"I only invested a short time with Sheets," the doctor said. "He turned me off."
He said both men were charismatic, but Sheets was more extravagant and flamboyant. "Gary's a good salesman, but a poor manager." Sheets spent money easily, according to the doctor. Larsen was more conservative.
"Dean's home is a nice home in a nice neighborhood. But it's not super fancy. When I was in there one night, his wife was laying tile on the floor."
Larsen lives in the Ensign Downs area north of the Capitol. Sheets lived in Holladay.
The doctor's assessment of the two men's respective characters prompted him to invest only tens of thousands of dollars with Sheets. He invested hundreds of thousands of dollars with Larsen's company.
The doctor's early investments with Granada paid handsomely, he said, prompting him to invest more heavily.
The doctor said he eventually lost nearly $500,000 with Larsen. He has filed more than $400,000 in claims against Granada and Larsen's personal estate. Other doctors invested heavily, too. Larsen knew a lot of doctors because he specialized in incorporating medical practices, the doctor said. So when it came time to find investors for his company, he simply went to his clients.
During the glory years, Sheets and Larsen traveled the country together conducting investment seminars. When the doctor went to Alaska in 1980 to visit a family member, he ran into Sheets and Larsen. The two men were conducting a seminarthere, the doctor said.
Larsen and Sheets were partners in several investment projects. They were limited partners in the purchase and inprovement of the Judge Building, 8 E. Broadway, 32 Exchange Place; and the Boston Building, 25 Exchange Place.
The two men's companies, CFS and Granada, bought the old Auerbach's building , 324 S. State. They formed a limited partnership, Broadway Enterprises, to purchase and renovate the building. Granada and CFS were the general partners in the company.
Despite tens of millions of dollars spent to purchase and manage the four buildings, bankruptcy struck the companies. The men's personal fortunes are in a similar tailspin.
CFS began to hit the skids in 1985. In early 1986, Granada tried to bale CFS out by taking over the management of several CFS projects, according to a memo written by Larsen. Granada became general partner in several CFS projects, successfully selling some of them while watching others slip into bankruptcy.
In early 1986, Granada took over CFS's interest in two apartment complexes in Atlanta, one in Indianapolis and one in Munice, Indiana.
Three complexes were successfully sold. The proceeds from one sale is in litigation. One complex fell into bankruptcy after Granada had spent nearly $1 million on the project, according to records compiled by Granada trustee Peter Billings Jr.
Granada tried to take over several other CFS projects, but Larsen couldn't get enough votes from Granada shareholders to take them over. He wanted to take over general partnership in three more CFS companies: CFS Columbus Terrace, an apartment complex in Tucson; Elmwood Limited, an apartment complex in Georgia and CFS Lakeview, an apartment complex in an unspecified state.
Both men were personally generous to neighbors and members of their respective LDS Church wards. Similar tales abound of the men's liberal aid to those in trouble. Sheets made a $24,000 loan to a man in his ward who was having trouble making his house payments, he said during a court hearing in March 1986.
A close friend of Larsen's tells a similar tale. Larsen made house payments for a man in his ward who had fallen ill and was unable to make the payments on his own, the friend said.
When both men fell, they fell hard. Sheets filed for personal bankruptcy in February 1986. He listed 2,260 creditors - most of them CFS investors.
Larsen filed for bankruptcy in June 1987. He listed 967 creditors and estimated his debts to be $1.1 million. However, more than $18 million in claims have since been filed against Larsen.
On Wednesday afternoon, the two men's lives were as parallel as they have ever been since those college days 35 years ago. While U.S. Attorney Brent Ward held a 4 p.m. press conference at the federal building to announce a 34-count indictment against Sheets, attorneys with the Utah attorney general's office quietly filed 50 felony charges against Larsen in 3rd Circuit Court.
Representatives from both offices met early in 1988 to discuss the two men, said Paul M. Warner, associate deputy attorney general.
"It was decided at that time that the federal people would focus on Mr. Sheets and we would focus our efforts on Granada," he said. The FBI was already investigating Sheets, so it seemed natural to keep that investigation on the federal level, he said.
Neither office intended to announce charges against the two men on the same day, Warner said. "It was sheer coincidence. Our office did not coordinate with Brent Ward . I was surprised to learn that they filed on the same day we did."
The coincidence drew public attention to the similarities between the two college pals.
Their futures promise to be as similar as their pasts: bankruptcy hearings, battles with hundreds of angry creditors, dozens of civil suits, criminal trials and the bleak possibility of prison.