24 May Utahn says he lost life savings to ‘friend’ tied to alleged $30M Ponzi scheme
SALT LAKE CITY — Mark Fox says he met Stephen Romney Swensen 25 years ago when the two had adjacent hangars at the Ogden-Hinckley Airport.
The two became friends, and Fox learned that Swensen was also a financial adviser. For 20 years, Fox had no reason to question the legitimacy of how Swensen was investing his money and where his money was going.
But today, Fox says he and his wife’s retirement funds — approximately $850,000 — are gone.
“Just talking about it I’m filled with disgust,” Fox said Tuesday.
Swensen, 50, worked for several investment companies over the years, including Crew Capital during the last several years of his life. He convinced people like Fox to invest in the Crew Capital Group LLC starting in July 2011, allegedly telling clients they would receive a guaranteed minimum of 5% annually, depending on stock market performance. He claimed Crew Capital was “one of the safest places” to invest their money.
But in reality, court documents say Swensen, of Kaysville, was using that money to support his own lavish lifestyle, buying private airplanes, cars, and supporting at least two mistresses, while occasionally making “periodic payments of fictitious earnings to certain investors in a Ponzi-like fashion.”
“He used investor funds as his personal piggy bank,” said Albert Copeland, one of the attorneys representing Fox.
Once his alleged scheme was exposed, Swensen died by suicide on June 6, 2022.
In October, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in federal court seeking to recover approximately $30 million from Swensen’s estate that he was accused of swindling from about 50 families.
On Tuesday, Fox became the first person to go public about the so-called Crew Capital Ponzi scheme. He and his attorneys held a press conference to announce a complaint filed with the American Arbitration Association against Centerville-based Wealth Navigation Advisors, which operates under the name Oak Lane Advisors. Swensen was an investment adviser for the company. For a decade, Wealth Navigation Advisors failed to properly supervise Swensen, according to Fox’s attorneys who are accusing the company of breach of fiduciary duty and negligence in the complaint.
“None of this would have happened if properly supervised,” Copeland said. “How could this go on for over a decade without anyone noticing?”
“To be able to run a Ponzi scheme of this magnitude while supposedly being supervised … it’s just astonishing. Someone clearly took their eye off the supervision ball,” added attorney Jason Kane. “For him to be able to get away with this for over a decade is astonishing and a clear failure of supervision.
“Swensen left behind a wake of destruction and we are working to put the pieces back together,” Kane added. “Imagine working hard your whole life to save for retirement only to learn you have to start from square one.”
Attorney Brent Baker, who represents Wealth Navigation Advisors, issued a brief statement Tuesday afternoon in response, saying, “We are looking forward to having all of the facts come out as soon as possible.”
Fox says he and his wife are still “reeling from the shock,” and his wife has been undergoing counseling because of the emotional trauma the situation has created.
When Fox invested money with Swensen and his company, Fox said Swensen would give him websites to check his account balances and returns. But Fox claims, “Everything on those websites was entirely false.”
Fox said after he found out what was allegedly happening, he talked to others who knew Swensen and many believed the missing $30 million had been invested in something such as stock.
“There’s no way he spent that much money,” Fox lamented.
But he and about 50 other families soon learned the money was gone.
“The answer that we’ll never get is why. Where’s the greed (coming from?)” Fox asked, noting that Swensen was allegedly making about $1 million per year legally. “There’s a lot of answers we’re never going to get.”
Fox also noted that over the years of knowing Swensen, he “never saw a change in his behavior,” which only adds to the disbelief.
Today, Fox says he is trying to be a “glass half full guy” rather than saying “poor me.”
“I’m trying not to go down that rabbit hole,” he said.
But although he does not have children, Fox thinks about his great-niece whom he promised he’d pay for her college.
“Not sure we can do that anymore,” he said.
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