Hoping a larger law firm will clear him in a fraud case, real estate agent Wayne Ogden has fired his attorneys and hired new ones.
As a result, 2nd District Judge W. Brent West has canceled a Jan. 22 preliminary hearing to determine if the 33-year-old Ogden should be tried on 13 felony counts of fraud.Prosecutors charged Ogden in what they claim was a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme, where money from new investors was used to repay other participants.
The preliminary hearing will be rescheduled after Ogden's new lawyers, Neil Kaplan and Rod Snow of Salt Lake City, become familiar with the case.
Ogden's former defense team, the Salt Lake firm of Cook, Skeen and Robinson, gave notice of its withdrawal from the case last month in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Utah, where creditors forced a bankruptcy on Ogden last June.
A letter from Ogden dated Dec. 15 and attached to the lawyer's withdrawal papers stated:
"The prosecution has driven me to the 2-yard-line and is trying to score. I need some massive steps taken to drive them back up the field."
Going with the new lawyers in a larger firm will provide more time and resources, Ogden wrote, a step he has to take "to prove I have not had any criminal intention whatsoever."
His former attorneys were also handling the bankruptcy proceedings, and Ogden has hired a new lawyer for that part of his case.
Stephen Stoker, also of Salt Lake City, has been hired for the bankruptcy, said Steve Bailey, the lawyer serving as the bankruptcy trustee pursuing Ogden's assets.
Bailey said he is going to investigate whether the bankruptcy court can seize the $25,000 retainer Ogden paid Cook, Skeen and Robinson and check Ogden's payment arrangements with his new legal team.
"If he's using the proceeds from his work in Denver since his bankruptcy was filed, he's OK," Bailey said. "But if it's from any money or assets he held before the bankruptcy, the court is entitled to it."
The former Coldwell Banker agent has been working for a real estate developer in Denver since he moved out of his South Ogden home last May. He disappeared for two months after receiving threats from disgruntled investors.
Investigators with the Weber County Attorney's Office and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Utah estimate there may be 500 victims in the case.
Ogden has made no public comment since August when he said he wanted to pay everyone back.
In addition to the 13 criminal charges and bankruptcy proceedings, Ogden faces 13 civil lawsuits filed by 43 plaintiffs who claim he owes them $6.85 million.
The bankruptcy probe has shown that Ogden paid out $14.2 million to investors from July 1996 until May 1997, according to subpoenaed records from seven banking institutions.
Bailey said the bankruptcy court may be able to stake a claim to the entire $14.2 million if proven to be the proceeds of a Ponzi scheme. Of the $14.2 million, checks totaling about $1 million bounced.