ST. GEORGE — A Kane County man who solicited money from elderly individuals by promising he was on the verge of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars was sentenced for his crimes Thursday.
Kurt Jurgens Bauer, 57, appeared in U.S. District Court in St. George via video and was sentenced on five convictions, including three counts of wire fraud and two counts of false impersonation of a federal employee – charges to which he pled guilty in December.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Dent said the government had agreed to a prison term of between 48-78 months to be served in a federal correctional facility. He had been potentially facing 65 years in prison had the maximum sentence been rendered on all five counts, but a plea deal was reached after months of negotiations that continued through the better part of 2020.
Bauer was indicted following an investigation into a scheme that ran from 2011 through April 2020, during which he defrauded his elderly targets out of money and property by telling them he was on the verge of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars – and in some cases, billions of dollars – in funds that were frozen by the District Court in Nevada and required a bond to release.
The defendant began soliciting payments, often weekly, under the guise that the payments would be used to satisfy the bond. He promised his victims a large return after the frozen funds were released by the court “in the near future,” according to the indictment.
Bauer also admitted to using or causing other individuals to use interstate or foreign wire communications or facilities to carry out the scheme, and he admitted to assuming and pretending to be an employee of a federal court acting under the authority of the United States and that he knew those representations were false.
In all, the defendant received more than $850,000 from a number of individuals during the scheme, including $100,000 that came from two elderly individuals in their 80s.
The prosecutor addressed the court during the hearing, saying the government investigation was a “complex one” and required the massive efforts of the FBI and other agencies that ultimately found “overwhelming evidence of fraud.”
“Fraud is a big problem in Utah — and elder fraud is a huge problem in Southern Utah,” Dent said.
The prosecutor acknowledged the many individuals who fell victim to the scheme as “salt of the earth, hardworking people.” Dent said they trusted Bauer, but in the end, they were left jaded, violated and in difficult situations – both financially and emotionally.
Bauer created fake identities to further the scheme and contact the individuals to pressure them into making payments, making them believe they were getting calls from multiple people. Bauer also impersonated a federal judge who is an actual sitting judge in Nevada.
Dent said the fact that Bauer targeted the elderly was a particularly troubling aspect of the case, including a couple in their 80s who Bauer met while he was serving time in a Nevada prison years before.
The couple provided religious counseling and services to the defendant while he was an inmate at the prison, and then Bauer tracked them down years after his release. The couple trusted the defendant, the prosecutor said, and thought of him as “a redemption story” of a parolee who was rehabilitated.
After Bauer found the couple, however, he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from them in a scheme built entirely on lies, Dent said.
“There was never any money, never any court or any judge holding any funds – there was nothing.”
Defense Attorney Ryan Stout also addressed the court, saying this is the type of case where emotion can potentially influence a sentencing decision, and while he did not believe the court would do that, he wanted to bring it to the judge’s attention.
Stout argued there were several good reasons to consider a sentence that is at the lower end of the spectrum and asked that the court sentence his client to a 48-month prison sentence based on the fact that Bauer is 57-years-old with many health issues, including congestive heart failure, diabetes and other serious conditions.
With the medical issues in mind, in addition to the fact that many of Bauer’s family members died in their early 60s, a sentence that would exceed four years could mean a life sentence for the defendant, Stout said.
Moreover, Stout said the defendant was helping to take care of his 89-year-old mother prior to his arrest on the fraud case and he has a good relationship with her. While the defendant grew up in a fairly affluent family, Stout said, there was a high level of violence the defendant witnessed and was subjected to as a child. He asked that those mitigating factors to be considered by the court.
Bauer also gave an emotional statement during sentencing, saying he never meant to hurt the victims and said he had always planned on paying them back. He also referred to his “laundry list of health issues” that are “getting worse by the day,” asking the judge to consider those factors as well.
He had filed for bankruptcy following the scheme, but once he found out he would have to include those he scammed, he said he “canceled it immediately.”
District Judge David Nuffer addressed the parties, saying he went over the sentencing parameters as outlined in the agreement as well as victim impact statements submitted to the court prior to sentencing. He said the sentencing guidelines as set forth in the presentence report recommended 78-97 months of incarceration.
The judge commended the parties for reaching an agreement and avoiding the hardships such proceedings can create for the victims and for family members in what he agreed was “a challenging case.”
Nuffer described the presentence report as “a terrifying narrative” of a defendant who betrayed and defrauded innocent and trusting individuals — a breach of the most basic human relationships. Bauer also violated the public’s trust when he impersonated a judge and then represented the public official in such a negative manner.
In the end, Nuffer said the sentence should seek justice for the crime and also act as a deterrent to others, and while he had previously considered a longer prison sentence, after hearing oral arguments and taking several factors into consideration, he ordered that Bauer serve 78 months in federal prison, which he said was “an equitable sentence.”
The judge also ordered Bauer to be placed on 36-months probation and to pay $856,422 in restitution, starting with the money he earns or receives while in custody.
Upon release, Bauer is ordered to make $200 payments per month towards the restitution.
Nuffer said “the good people” the defendant defrauded needed to be paid back.
“I hope you do that,” he said, addressing Bauer.
The judge then recommended that Bauer serve his time at the Federal Detention Center in Sheridan, Oregon. If that facility is not available then he will be incarcerated at the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution in Littleton, Colorado. Bauer is currently being held in federal custody at the Iron County Jail.
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