Robert W. Stringham, former Utah County Democratic Party chairman and president of the Utah Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, is facing 17 felony counts of communications fraud and racketeering filed last month in 4th Circuit Court.

The complaint contends that between February 1990 and February 1993 Stringham engaged in a pattern of unlawful activity. During that same period, the county also alleges that Stringham committed 16 acts of communications fraud. All of the charges are second-degree felonies, punishable by prison terms of one to 15 years and fines of up to $10,000.Consistent with past policy, Utah County Attorney Kay Bryson would not discuss details of the charges when contacted Tuesday morning. However, he told the Associated Press that the alleged racketeering offense was "committed within the parameters of an enterprise."

"The case was investigated for some time by our investigators and we're confident the information they've turned over to us is accurate," Bryson said.

The complaint contained no probable-cause statement, an affidavit drafted by the investigator that outlines in general the alleged facts in support of the charges. The 4th Judicial District does not require the affidavits when criminal complaints are filed. The affidavits are only filed when search and arrest warrants are requested.

A former steelworker and union official at USX, Stringham now works for his wife's drug and alcohol counseling company, called Utah Treatment Addiction Health Services. The company is located in Sandy in the same building as the Utah Association of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Counselors, the only state agency that licenses drug and alcohol counselors. The company has contracts with Sandy City and the Utah Department of Human Services to provide counseling. Stringham formerly worked for Rocky Mountain Associates and American Psychotherapy Associates, counseling providers.

Stringham and a paralegal in the law office representing him said they had not even seen the complaint, which was filed Nov. 30.

"I don't know what all this is about. I don't even know what I'm charged with," Stringham said Monday. "There are a number of possibilities. I do know that I was very active in trying not to have him (Bryson) elected."

Stringham was chairman of the Utah County Democratic Party for six years, resigning last April. He announced then that he would run for the County Commission next year. Stringham said he intends to continue with his candidacy. He also was an unsuccessful candidate against former Republican congressman Howard Nielson in the 3rd Congressional District and has considered running for the seat again if Democratic Rep. Bill Orton decides to challenge Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

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Bryson said statements by Stringham that he has no knowledge about the alleged offenses and has not seen the complaint are false. He said Stringham was served with a summons on Dec. 7 and the county attorney's office has already provided his attorney with discovery.

Bryson, a Republican, also denied that the charges are politically motivated.

"I expected it to be brought up, but any allegations that the charges are politically motivated are unfounded," Bryson said.

Stringham is scheduled for a first appearance in 4th Circuit Court on Jan. 4.

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