Mormon leader hit with federal fraud charges after stealing $1.5 million from parishioners
(Photo: Shutterstock)

A prominent member of a Utah Mormon church has been charged with federal fraud charges after stealing $1.5 million from parishioners and friends.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reported that a newly-unsealed federal indictment shows that Robert Glen Mouritsen — a "stake president" or regional leader in the Kaysville, Utah Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1989 to 1997 — stole the funds from multiple people under the guise of a secretive campaign he called "The Project."

According to the indictment, the 71-year-old Mouritsen used his "position of prominence" in the Kaysville LDS church to acquire the money. He told them that "The Project" had to be kept secret because it "involved a series of complicated international transactions” in Asia and Europe that were "subject to extremely strict confidentiality agreements."

The Deseret News noted that Mouritsen promised the people who invested in The Project that he would replace their normal American currency with "an asset-backed currency system such as the U.S. dollar tied to the value of gold, according to the indictment."

The indictment noted that he also told investors that their investments were protected by the Patriot Act and Homeland Security.

During his 13-year scheme, the former stake president allegedly accrued three high-dollar investors who gave him $326,000, $165,000 and $33,000 respectively.

On August 30, Mouritsen pleaded not guilty, the Tribune reported. If charged, he could receive a maximum of 20 years in federal prison per wire fraud count and 10 years per money laundering count.