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Hearing set in investment-scam case

Prosecutors are evaluating sanity of defendant

PROVO — A June 24 pre-trial hearing has been set to determine whether a Pleasant Grove man will face trial in connection with a fictitious investment scheme.

William Veach is accused of scamming friends and family members in the investment scheme.

Veach's attorney said the results of a mental health evaluation involving an expert hired by the prosecution will likely determine whether his client proceeds with a plea negotiation prior to the scheduled July 7 trial.

Veach claims he was suffering from intense bipolar depression at the time of the alleged crime and was convinced he had made $17 million by selling an experimental computer keyboard to Microsoft Corp.

According to court records, Veach, 31, approached his brother-in-law with an opportunity to invest in Microsoft stock in April 2001. Veach also allegedly told friends he would personally match their investments and guarantee a 40 percent return on the stock investments.

At the time, Veach's brother-in-law said he was convinced the opportunity was legitimate because Veach was in the process of buying a $650,000 home and was driving a Porsche Carrera.

The brother-in-law and several friends gave Veach a total of $52,312 for investing. Police allege that rather than investing the money, Veach deposited the money into his personal bank account and used some of the funds in an effort to buy several sports cars from Ken Garff Automotive in Orem.

After waiting months with no word on their investments, the investors went to police. Police say Veach allegedly admitted to his wife by June 2001 that the investment was a scam and that he had spent all the money.

Veach is charged with five second-degree felony counts of securities fraud, communication fraud and issuing a bad check. He is also charged with two third-degree felony counts of acting as an unregistered securities agent.

Defense attorney Richard Gale has argued that Veach's mental state may have caused him to truly believe he was a millionaire.

Gale points to two mental evaluations by defense experts that conclude Veach's view of reality may have been impacted by severe depression.

The legal defense of diminished mental capacity has rarely been applied to financial crimes, said Deputy Utah County Attorney David Wayment, who doubts the defense will hold up in trial.

"Certainly it's an uphill battle," Wayment said. "It seems counter-intuitive."

Wayment said white-collar crimes typically require the suspect to perform complex mental tasks. Wayment said Gale would have to prove that although Veach was mentally ill, he still had the mental capacity to conduct business transactions.

Gale has said he is confident he can prove his client was capable of dealing with money while suffering from a diminished mental state.

Wayment said his office has hired its own mental expert to review the mental evaluations and determine if the defense claim is possible.


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com