Month-Long Trial of Duane Slade Ends in Hung Jury; Jurors Refuse to Convict on “Ponzi Scheme” Charges of Mail and Wire Fraud, Money Laundering

Published on January 29, 2013

The jury said it was unable to return a verdict today in the month-long trial of Duane Hamblin Slade, who the US Government accused of operating a “Ponzi scheme” through the “Mathon Fund,” along with Guy and Brent Williams. Slade could spend up to 30 years in prison if convicted, but the jury was hopelessly deadlocked and could not reach the verdict of “guilty” which the US Attorney’s Office in Phoenix, Arizona asked it to reach.

The case was tried before the Hon. Jack Zouhary, a visiting U.S. District Court Judge from Ohio. Dennis Wilenchik, of Wilenchik & Bartness, defended Mr. Slade in the trial, and closing arguments were made last Thursday. After three days of deliberations, the jurors refused to convict Mr. Slade and the others, resulting in a “hung” jury. Mr. Wilenchik argued that the case presented by the Government made no sense, and that there was no Ponzi scheme or any other fraudulent scheme to defraud investors, who were mostly wealthy members of the Mormon community who invested in the Mathon Fund, a hard-money lending operation similar in nature to Mortgages Limited.  The company, which was based in Mesa, Arizona, raised hundreds of millions of dollars before being taken over by the Arizona Corporation Commission. In his closing argument to the jury, Mr. Wilenchik said that the government failed to prove that Mr. Slade committed fraud because it did not show that Mr. Slade actually made any false statements contrary to what was in the written subscription documents to investors, and that the Private Placement documents were not false or misleading and called out the risks sufficiently. The Government claimed that the Fund was not only a Ponzi scheme, but that the investors were misled by verbal representations and material omissions of fact.  Mr. Wilenchik argued that the investors could not rely on any alleged false statements because they were in fact not “material” to their investment decision.

It is unclear whether the Government will attempt to retry the case. The Government did not offer Slade any plea agreement, forcing Slade to defend himself at trial. Wilenchik stated that he and his client were ecstatic about the result and that after ten years the Government could not prove its case, bringing this chapter to an end. If the Government attempted to retry Slade, Mr. Wilenchik stated that he was confident that Mr. Slade would be acquitted fully by another jury.