PROVO -- Utah County prosecutor Curtis Larson looked down at a courtroom table Wednesday morning and read a long list fraud-related crimes. When Larson had finished Judge Lynn Davis turned to Kevin Thomas and asked if he had actually committed the crimes.
"Yes," Thomas mumbled while standing in a blue jail jumpsuit and shackles.
Thomas, 51, ultimately pleaded guilty to five felonies for communications fraud, theft and unlawful activity, as well as three misdemeanors for theft and vehicle burglary. Thomas originally faced 20 charges spread across three separate cases, but those charges were reduced as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors.
Thomas's largest group of charges stemmed from allegations that, among other things, he used his one-time position as an LDS bishop to con an elderly man out of his life savings. According to a police affidavit, Thomas used his leadership position in and knowledge of the LDS Church to earn the man's friendship. The man reportedly had saved more than $400,000 throughout the course of his life, and he turned it over to Thomas believing it was secured with property and promissory notes. Thomas made token payments to the man to convince him that he was making a great return on his investment, the affidavit reveals. However, the payments eventually stopped and the man learned of his losses.
The affidavit also states that Thomas bilked the man out of an additional $15,000 when he convinced him to invest in a "hard money loan." Thomas reportedly spent the money on himself.
In addition, Thomas is accused of forging checks worth more than $40,000.
Larson emphasized during Wednesday's hearing that Thomas had used the stolen money for personal gain.
After Thomas pleaded guilty Wednesday, Davis noted that the case was unique. Thomas had spent a lifetime making positive contributions to society, Davis said, then suddenly turned to crime when he was well into middle age.
"You're a very unique individual before the court," Davis said. "You have no criminal history before age 50."
Davis further noted that alcohol may have contributed to Thomas's descent into criminal behavior.
Thomas will be sentenced June 6.