ST. GEORGE — A fraud ring was exposed after police received reports that an elderly woman was being exploited. It was later discovered that the alleged ring leader had been released in 2017 after spending nearly three decades behind bars for murder.
Rocky James Mott, 40, of Hurricane, and Martell “Taz” Powell, 25, of Cedar City, have both been charged in the 5th District Court in St. George for exploitation of a vulnerable adult, a second-degree felony.
The gang’s alleged ring leader, Frank Gene Powell, 50, is being sought for questioning and is a person of interest. He is listed as the primary suspect in multiple probable cause statements filed in connection with the other four suspects, in addition to allegations that he was engaged to the 80-year-old victim, court records say.
Frank Powell has multiple convictions for theft by deception and other similar charges dating back to the mid-’80s.
He was released from Utah State Prison in December 2017, after serving 29 years for first-degree murder and a later conviction for aggravated sexual assault on an inmate, for which he received a sentence of one-to-15 years which was added to his original sentence.
Mott also spent several years in prison after a third-degree felony conviction for unlawful sexual activity with a minor and was released in 2008.
Martell Powell, on the other hand, has no prior criminal history that could be found in Utah, the record shows.
Friday’s charges came in the wake of two other suspects that were charged Thursday, including Faye Renteria, 41, who is facing 10 counts of second-degree felony of exploitation of a vulnerable adult, along with 23-year-old Terrance Powell, who is facing seven second-degree felony of exploitation of a vulnerable adult.
All have posted bond and have been released from jail.
The charges stem from an investigation that was set in motion Tuesday after a parole officer received information that an elderly woman was being taken advantage of by a number of men who had allegedly received “thousands of dollars in checks and currency,” the probable cause statements filed in support of the arrests said.
The transactions were discovered by a family member who was helping the woman reconcile her bank statements, and while doing so, they found suspicious activity and then called police to report the discovery.
The primary suspect, Frank Powell, was reportedly engaged to the woman, even though he is allegedly married and living with his wife in Washington County, according to the report.
Investigators also discovered that the woman had recently signed the family’s cabin over to the suspect for zero money down, in addition to giving him large sums of money. Frank Powell allegedly received approximately $150,000 in addition to the property in Kolob that was signed over July 31, county records revealed.
Through the course of the investigation, the woman was interviewed and told police that she initially hired Frank Powell and several of his employees to do some work around her home after the suspect knocked on her door in March and pointed out a number of areas that needed to be repaired on the exterior of her home.
The suspect was hired to repaint the stucco around her home, paint the window trimmings, resurface the driveway and do miscellaneous yard work. He then brought over several of his workers, including Martell “Taz” Powell, to assist with the small household jobs.
The suspect would ask for the money for the work upfront, then fail to show up the following day to complete the work.
The officer also noted that several of the odd jobs the suspect was paid to perform were never completed, and the quality of work ”was extremely poor,” the officer noted in the report, adding that “any reasonable person can see that these jobs will need to be redone,” at a cost of “several thousand dollars.”
As time went on, the suspects would go to the elderly woman’s home and perform these small jobs. On many occasions, they were paid “several thousand dollars at a time for performing meaningless jobs around the house that shouldn’t cost more than $100 in total,” the statement said.
On other occasions, the suspects would be paid upfront and “would neither start nor finish any jobs around her house,” the officer noted.
Upon examining the woman’s financial records, the officer was unable to see any documentation regarding transactions paid directly to the defendants. He later learned through subsequent interviews that the men were paid with cash on a number of occasions, including a transaction that reportedly took place Wednesday morning when the woman allegedly gave Martell Powell $15,000 in cash.
During an interview after his arrest, Martell Powell allegedly admitted to going with Terrance Powell to the elderly woman’s residence and collecting money from her for odd jobs around the house, but denied being paid hourly and told officers the woman offered to pay him $1,000 a month for performing odd jobs around the home. However, he said “he didn’t feel right” about “taking that kind of money from the elderly woman,” the statement said.
However, in September, he” had no issues taking $16,000 from her,” the officer noted, which he used to purchase a 2016 Buick Regal that was later exchanged for a 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe that was parked at the cabin in Kolob.
Terrance Powell was charged for allegedly taking $13,500 in cash and checks for work that was never completed in the home, and during an interview with police, he allegedly admitted to taking money from the woman, but initially claimed that he was being paid $12 an hour to perform the work. It was only after he was confronted with the large sums of money that he admitted any wrongdoing, the report said.
During an interview with Mott, police say he admitted to collecting $8,000 from the elderly woman for a job that should not cost more than $1,000 and also admitted that he never completed the job that he accepted payment for in May. According to police, the suspect admitted that he knew what he was doing was wrong, but claimed that “the parolee” directed him to take the money and give him a portion of it after he cashed it at his bank.
Renteria allegedly wrote and cashed more than $170,000 in checks from the woman’s account to pay herself, money that she told police she turned over to Frank Powell.
During the investigation, the investigator determined that the woman was very confused, was able to conclude that none of the work she paid for was finished and appeared “to have caused more damage to her home.”
Frank Powell remains at large Saturday.
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