SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake County real estate investor who allegedly promised clients 100 percent returns faces criminal charges for running what investigators say was a Ponzi scheme.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint against Landon M. Smith, 29, at the same time the U.S. Attorney's Office leveled criminal charges against him this week.
Smith, the owner of J&L Real Estate, raised $2.4 million from 50 investors from December 2016 through April 2018, according to court documents. He told them he was a real estate wholesaler who used earnest money to buy and then quickly resell property, allegedly promising investors up to 100 percent return on the money.
According to the SEC, Smith never bought the purported properties.
Smith used fraudulent paperwork, including fake real estate purchase agreements and forged signatures, to create at least 15 fraudulent real estate purchase contracts to give to investors, the complaint says.
"Smith provided those same 15 fraudulent real estate deals to investors approximately 25-30 times," according to the SEC.
Smith allegedly used new investor funds to pay returns to earlier investors in a Ponzi scheme. He also used the money to pay personal expenses, including rent and trips to Hawaii.
Federal prosecutors charged Smith with one count each of wire fraud and money laundering. A court date has not been set.