A Salt Lake City estate lawyer, Calvin Curtis, pleaded guilty in federal court last week to wire fraud and money laundering after embezzling millions of dollars from his clients, including at least $13 million from Glenn McConkey, a former Park City resident.
Although Curtis admitted to embezzling at least $9.5 million, Laura Milliken Gray, attorney for the McConkey family, says that he likely took more than $13 million from the McConkey estate, and about another $1 million from at least 22 other clients.
"Most, if not all of these victims, have special needs. They're incapacitated by age or disability, they're very vulnerable individuals and he stole their money over a series of years," Gray said.
Glenn McConkey had Alzheimer's and dementia when Curtis appointed himself trustee of the estate and disinherited Ayla McConky, Glenn McConkey's only granddaughter and blood relative. Glenn McConkey is in a memory care unit where she requires 24/7 care. Because of the actions of Curtis, the family is unsure if it can sustain the care that Glenn McConkey has been receiving.
Glenn McConkey is the mother of deceased extreme skier Shane McConkey, who died in an skiing accident in 2009 in Italy. Sherry McConkey is the widow of Shane McConkey and the mother of 16-year-old Ayla McConkey.
Sherry McConkie reached out to Gray after she had trouble getting a straight answer from Curtis regarding land that was legally owned by Sherry and Shane McConkie. After asking for years and not getting a response and feeling like she was being pushed away, Sherry spoke to Gray who, as an estate attorney, could tell that something was wrong and started investigating in 2018.
"It was hard to get any information out of anyone," Sherry McConkey said. "(Curtis) strung me along for quite a few years."
Gray explained that because Curtis disinherited Ayla, it was hard to get any information, making the process frustrating. They filed a lawsuit to have Ayla reinstated in the will in 2018, but Curtis still continued to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from the estate in 2020 and 2021.
"We were shocked to learn, but not surprised, when we heard that he'd stolen all the money. Because we've been trying to get information and we knew something was wrong," Gray said.
The Department of Justice said that Curtis admitted, in a plea agreement, that he specializes in special needs trusts and began to defraud Glenn McConkey in 2008. Through his role as an attorney for the family, Curtis had access to two different trust accounts, and he transferred money intended to be used for her care into his own accounts. He also admitted making fake financial statements to conceal the fraud, and that he knew that the transactions she made with the money were illegal.
Curtis used the money he took to make mortgage payments on his Salt Lake City home which doubles as his office, to remodel his home in Tampa, Florida, go to basketball and football games, give expensive gifts, and "support a lavish lifestyle with frequent travel," the DOJ press release said.
The DOJ estimates that Curtis embezzled funds from at least 22 other trust accounts, and asked anyone who thinks they may be a victim to contact the FBI and file a report.
"Calvin Curtis' greed had devastating consequences for his clients, who placed their trust and money in his hands," said Dennis Rice of the Salt Lake City FBI, the special agent in charge of the investigation. "Sadly, financial fraud cases like this are not limited to a few victims. We hope this case sends a strong message that the FBI will do what it takes to make sure such crimes don't go unpunished."
The DOJ reported that attorneys for both parties have recommended that Curtis should spend 73 months in a federal prison. A sentencing hearing scheduled for March 15, 2022.
The McConkeys are hoping to get some money back. The family has filed a civil lawsuit to try to get at least a part of the funds stolen by Curtis and have Ayla reinstated as a beneficiary. Gray said that 25% of the estate was supposed to go to Ayla, and 75% was earmarked for specific charities and they hope to be able to still give some money to those charities.
"We would like to see that will reinstated and we would really like some cooperation from ... the conservatorship to have that happen and also to take the final steps to have Sherry's property in Mexico returned to the family," Gray said.
Sherry McConkey said she cares most about at this point is making sure that Glenn McConkey is cared for and able to stay in the home that she is in. She said that at first, it seemed that the family would get back what they were owed, but that people involved are still stalling and keeping information from them.
Sherry McConkey said she has read and learned about other families who were affected and that what Curtis has done is disgusting and despicable. She said that people who have disabilities should be taken care of. Curtis should be in jail longer, she said, and should tell the truth about where all of the money went.
"Pay back everybody. Pay back all these people that have been affected all their money and apologize to them for causing the stress," Sherry McConkey said.