St. George auto dealer faces fraud charges
ST. GEORGE A St. George auto dealer is scheduled to make his first appearance today in 5th District Court on fraud charges.

Todd L. Vowell, 44, one of the owners of Executive Car Sales Inc. on Bluff Street, was charged with two counts of communications fraud in February.

Court documents filed in conjunction with the charges do not explain the basis for the prosecution's decision to file charges against Vowell, however communications fraud is generally defined as a scheme to obtain money or anything else of value from another person by false pretenses, and then to try to conceal the scheme with another person's assistance.

Vowell is charged with second-degree felonies, which according to the criminal statute means the value of the alleged fraud exceeds $5,000 or that the alleged fraud was to obtain sensitive personal identification information.

Deputy County Attorney Jerry Jaeger did not provide specifics about the reason for filing the fraud charges, but said the basis of the charges is similar in nature to a complaint filed in a 5th District Court lawsuit two years ago in which a woman claimed Vowell and other Executive Car Sales officers enticed her to invest $600,000 in the auto dealership in 2008, then failed to abide by the promised terms of repayment.

The woman, Karen Grounds, named Vowell and dealership co-owners Jason Vowell and Rabbit Downward as defendants in the lawsuit, but Todd Vowell is the only one of the three facing criminal charges.

The fraud charges were filed one business day after the court-appointed receiver in the Nevada federal lawsuit against St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson released a report detailing, among other things, Vowell's alleged efforts to help Johnson conceal millions of dollars federal officials claim Johnson's company obtained from clients without their permission.

The receiver's report alleges Vowell and his brother Jason, as well as a handful of other people, helped move the money around between dozens of business entities, most of which were allegedly created by the Vowells after the Federal Trade Commission asked Johnson to preserve his assets pending an investigation.
Originally published April 26, 2012