Robert L. Wood, a former CEO of Bonneville Pacific Corp., has become the third person to plead guilty to charges related to the company's financial downfall.
Acting on a bargain with federal prosecutors, Wood pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of filing a false tax return and one count of securities fraud. In return, prosecutors dropped 58 other felony counts.Wood, 43, faces a prison term of up to eight years and a fine of up to $500,000 when he is sentenced Aug. 5 by U.S. District Judge Dee Benson.
The sentence is expected to be more lenient, however, because of Wood's promise to cooperate in the government's continuing prosecution of other defendants along with his payment of $665,000 to the Bonneville Pacific bankruptcy trustee.
Wood, who at various times served as the company's chief financial officer, chief executive officer, president, managing director and chairman of the board, is one of six company officers or insiders indicted over the past three years in connection with the case.
In a 1993 plea bargain, insider John T. Dunlop pleaded guilty to securities and tax charges and was sentenced to 30 months in prison. He was released to a halfway house after serving about 20 months of the sentence.
Carl Peterson, whom prosecutors say profited the most from the Bonneville Pacific debacle, reached a deal with prosecutors last year and pleaded guilty to one felony and one misdemeanor. Because of a life-threatening ailment, he was released from prison last month after serving only two months of a one-year term.
Three other company associates, L. Wynn Johnson, Raymond Hix-son and David Hirschi, remain under indictment and face trial later this year unless they, too, make deals with the government.
In separate proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, many of the key corporate and individual players in the case have reached settlement agreements totaling more than $145 million. The government estimates it will take about $500 million to fully repay stockholders and creditors.
Among the first to settle with the trustee were Salt Lake Mayor Dee-dee Corradini and her husband Yan Ross, who were associated with the firm during the 1980s. Corradini has not been named in any of the criminal indictments to date.
An alternative energy producer, Bonneville Pacific Corp. declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1992, triggering far-reaching investigations that uncovered questionable tax and securities activity and alleged insider looting of assets.