PROVO — Mentally disturbed? Or crazy like a fox?
That is what a Provo judge must determine about a Pleasant Grove man who says he truly believed he was a millionaire when he allegedly scammed friends and family members in an investment scheme.
William Veach says he was suffering from such intense bipolar depression that he actually believed he had sold an experimental keyboard to Microsoft Corp. for $17 million.
Veach is charged in 4th District Court in Provo 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.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed with the court, police allege Veach, 31, approached his brother-in-law with a supposed investment opportunity in April of 2001.
Veach allegedly told his brother-in-law that he had recently sold a product to Microsoft for $17 million and that he was given the chance to invest in Microsoft stock and was also allowed to allow friends and family to invest. Veach also told friends that he would personally match their investments and guarantee 40 percent interest.
The brother-in-law told police he believed Veach because Veach was in the process of buying a $650,000 home and drove a Porsche Carrera. The group ended up giving Veach a total of $52,312 for the investment. But, according to police, rather than investing the money, Veach deposited the money into his bank account and used the money to pay Ken Garff Automotive in Orem in an attempt to purchase several sports cars from the dealership. Dealership officials reported that a check Veach wrote for $222,603 bounced. The dealership then allowed Veach to lease the vehicles, which were quickly repossessed for lack of payment.
As it turns out, Veach was not a millionaire. His wife reported to police that he made about $75,000 a year.
By June 2001, friends say they became increasingly agitated that Veach failed to produce stock certificates. In-laws told police that Veach admitted to his wife that the investment was a scam and that he had spent all the money.
Deputy Utah County attorney David Wayment said he has never before seen an insanity defense used in a white-collar crime. Typically a claim of "diminished capacity" is used in crimes of passion or violence. "It is unusual for us to see this claim in a crime that requires sophisticated thinking and acting over a long period of time," Wayment said.
Utah County public defense attorney Richard Gale says he truly believes Veach was not aware of what he was doing and had no intent to victimize friends and family. Gale points to two mental evaluations. They conclude that although Veach can comprehend complex situations, with his depression and suicidal thoughts he "began believing grandiose things about himself and became confused between reality and fantasy," according to one mental-health expert.
Gale said he believes it is possible for Veach to be aware and rational enough to comprehend the financial side of things while being delusional. Wayment remains skeptical that the defense will hold up in court.
A hearing has been set for March 25 on the issue. Wayment said the state has hired its own expert, who will review Veach's mental-health reports.