Salt Lake City man sentenced to jail in forgery, theft case
A Salt Lake City man convicted on two felony counts of forgery and theft by deception was sentenced to serve one year in the Summit County jail and pay nearly $44,000 in restitution.
Last week, Michael S. Langheinrich, 57, of Salt Lake City, was sentenced to serve one year in jail and pay restitution in the amount of $43,737.73. In April, he pleaded guilty to forgery and theft by deception, both third-degree felonies. A third-degree felony is punishable by a prison sentence not to exceed five years and a $5,000 fine upon conviction. Attempts to contact Langheinrich’s attorney were unsuccessful.
Langheinrich, identified in court documents as a legal assistant or paralegal, originally faced seven charges after forging three checks worth more than $47,000 and depositing them into his wife’s account at a Park City bank. He was charged with three counts of theft by deception, three counts of forgery and one count of providing false information to a law enforcement official.
In 2012, Langheinrich contracted with attorneys in Orange County, California and in Salt Lake City on two separate personal injury action lawsuit cases. In both instances, the attorneys settled the cases and the clients were awarded several thousand dollars.
According to court documents, when Langheinrich went to pick up his fees from the attorneys he offered to "drop off letters," which contained three settlement checks, when he was on his way to the post office.
When one of the clients contacted Langheinrich about the missing settlement funds, he told her the funds were held up in court. Authorities later determined Langheinrich had signed over the checks to himself and deposited them into his wife’s account. The account had $59.93 in it before the deposits.
After the victims formally filed complaints, Park City police officers stopped Langheinrich’s car on May 29, 2014 for an unspecified traffic violation. When he was questioned by officers, he gave them his brother’s identification, before eventually admitting his identity. At the time of his arrest, officers also discovered he had a two-year-old warrant out of Salt Lake County for securities fraud.
Ryan Stack, Summit County prosecuting attorney, said he worked on Langheinrich’s case with Salt Lake County prosecutors. Langheinrich had been charged with several counts related to securities fraud in Salt Lake County.
Langheinrich pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted securities fraud, one count each of pattern of unlawful activity and failure to render a property tax, all third-degree felonies. He is ordered to pay slightly more than $254,000 in restitution in Salt Lake County case.
Between both cases, Langheinrich will serve one year in the Summit County Jail, a sentence Stack said is appropriate.
"He’s required to pay restitution and he’s wrapped up in this case and the Salt Lake case," Stack said. "I think he understands, very clearly, if he engages in any sort of work as a fiduciary or engages in this sort of conduct at all he has pretty substantial consequences hanging over his head."
Forgery and fraud cases are not uncommon in Summit County, Stack said. However, he pointed out this situation was different because of the circumstances surrounding it.
"It’s unique in this context where you have a legal assistant who is suggesting he is going to deliver the mail that contains the checks and he takes them to the bank and forges the signature and gets the money," Stack said. "From the standpoint of fraud and dishonesty in the context of business relations it’s not common, but it’s also not uncommon. People should just always be careful with whom they are dealing and make sure you trust them and make sure you have a thorough understanding of what you are investing in."
Summit County has prosecuted two securities fraud cases since 2014. In March, a Park City man was sentenced to serve six months of house arrest and three years of probation after he pleaded guilty to securities fraud and theft by deception.
"That’s what we see a little more, is that sort of fraud, and unfortunately it does happen," Stack said. "I just can’t stress enough how important it is for people to do their due diligence when investing."
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.