Jurors say Edward Reddeck lost his bid for acquittal when he took the stand in his own defense during his trial on 34 counts of fraud.
"We all thought he hung himself when he got on the stand. We could see his lies," said a juror who declined to give her name.Another juror said she wasn't convinced Reddeck intended to defraud people until he took the stand. She, too, believed he lied.
The 12-member jury deliberated only six hours before finding the founder of North American University guilty on all 34 counts. Jerome Mooney, attorney for Reddeck, said he will "most certainly" appeal the verdict.
Mooney believes U.S. District Judge David Winder erred when he allowed prosecutors to tell the jury about Reddeck's previous conviction for a similar offense. Mooney also disagrees with Winder's decision to admit evidence about an injunction the state of Missouri issued against Reddeck.
After the injunction, Reddeck closed down his school there, renamed it and moved it to Utah. The school, which had no faculty or campus, operated out of an office on Highland Drive.
Prosecutors were elated with the verdict.
"We hope this sends a message: When you are offering something to the public you need to be absolutely truthful. Mr. Reddeck was not," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Lambert.
Reddeck advertised his university as a nontraditional school with a campus and a faculty of 25 outstanding professors. Reddeck offered bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees in dozens of specialties ranging from civil engineering to law.
In reality, Reddeck only had one employee with a doctorate in political science who graded all the course work. None of the professors named in the school's catalog worked for the school.
Reddeck's conviction may have added a bit of shine to Utah's reputation, said U.S. Attorney David Jordan. Reddeck moved his school to Utah because "Utah lended an aura of credibility to his school," Jordan said. Reddeck thought students would be more likely to spend hundreds of dollars on his coursework if the school was based here.
One student testified during the trial that he believed if the school was in Utah, it must be legitimate, Jordan noted.
"We want to send a message that con men are not welcome here and we will not allow them to tarnish our reputation. We want to be known as a state where people do honest, legitimate business."
The verdict surprised Mooney. "We knew it was going to be difficult, but I thought we had a very good chance of winning," he said.
Reddeck will appear before Winder for sentencing on May 18.
Reddeck has been incarcerated in the Salt Lake County jail for the past year. He served 18 months on Terminal Island, a federal prison in California, for a similar offense in Texas. A Missouri court has ordered Reddeck to pay $2.5 million - $1,000 for each of 2,500 students he defrauded, Lambert said.