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A former candidate for the state Legislature and minister to the homeless pleaded guilty this week in 2nd District Court to two second-degree felony forgery charges.

It is the latest brush with the law for Randall W. Cates, 44, Sunset, who has served a prior prison sentence on drug convictions and still faces a felony bad check charge in Ogden.Cates claims he's a minister with the Orthodox Catholic Church of California and has been working with the homeless in an Ogden storefront church. Prosecutors say he's a con man.

His criminal record goes back to 1969 and includes convictions and jail time for theft, assault, and drug charges.

A decade ago, Cates was chairman of the Libertarian Party in Weber County and ran for a seat in the Utah Legislature. He lost that bid and shortly after served a prison term for drug possession after narcotics agents found hallucinogenic mushrooms being grown in his basement.

In 1989 and 1990, Cates was involved in a storefront church and homeless shelter in Ogden, the St. Dismas Mission. The mission closed after Cates was arrested, along with a 13-year-old girl, on marijuana possession charges.

In that incident last year, narcotics agents seized the pink Cadillac convertible Cates and the girl were sitting in when they were arrested. Cates failed to appear in court and an arrest warrant was issued.

He was arrested in Clearfield in December and has been held in the Davis County jail since then.

Cates pleaded guilty this week to two counts of forgery, admitting he forged his ex-wife's signature on $68,000 worth of insurance checks and cashed them. The checks were issued after a 1990 fire destroyed Cates' home in Sunset.

In return for his guilty plea, a third forgery charge was dismissed. Also dismissed was a theft-of-a-firearm charge and the charge of distributing marijuana involving the 13-year-old girl.

Cates faces one to 15 years on each of the two forgery charges.