Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2020. 6:39 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Quite a few Belizean government officials knew the accused Lev Dermen (formerly Levon Termendzhyan), though they have denied taking money from him.
But according to former partner Jacob Kingston, whose testimony in Dermen’s fraud trial continues in Salt Lake City Federal Court, he had his contacts with influential Belizeans as well.
Kingston told the court that, “We had dinner with ministers from Belize, mayors … I met the president of Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) through Levan…”
Kingston has pleaded guilty to 43 charges in a multi-million dollar fraud case against his Washakie Renewable Energy, in which Dermen is accused of masterminding a scheme to defraud the U.S. Government by engaging in a biofuel tax credit fraud that sought more than 1 billion in biofuel grants from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. He will also tell the court how Dermen pointed him to where to launder the illegally obtained profits – in Turkey, Luxembourg and Belize, as well as buying houses and cars in Utah and California.
While the prosecution is arguing that Dermen’s entry into the picture escalated the fraud, defense attorney Mark Geragos is downplaying Dermen’s role in the tax credit scheme, arguing that it was Jacob Kingston and his brother, Isaiah, who was behind the fraud.
Still to come is Kingston’s testimony concerning the alleged bribery of National Security Minister and United Democratic Party leadership candidate John Saldivar. According to court documents, Kingston is expected to testify that between 2012 and 2016, Dermen regularly paid a Belize minister US $25,000 monthly and that for a period of time, he himself oversaw those payments. Saldivar has denied wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have shared that the jury will be shown financial records, photographs, e-mails and text messages to support Kingston’s argument – but some familiar with the case believe that not much of the messages will be admitted into evidence, and the messages are in code which Kingston will have to decipher for the court and the jury.
On Wednesday prosecutors focused their early questions to Kingston on his personal, religious and business backgrounds, including his controversial background as a member of The Davis County Cooperative which is also known as The Order. He admitted that he has twenty-five children with at least three women in a polygamous marriage, at least one of whom was charged and pleaded guilty with him.
He explained that the Washakie Renewable Energy company was started in 2006 with his wife and brother but pointed out that in order to be successful, they had to rely on subsidies and other incentives paid to such biodiesel companies because of how the commodities are valued. He disclosed that the fraudulent filings with the IRS began as early as 2020. Kingston will be on the stand through at least Monday including cross-examination by Geragos.
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