The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has agreed to return $150,000 in tithing donations it received from a man currently serving time in prison for stealing nearly $25 million from his clients' retirement accounts at American Pension Services.
Court documents show that APS was incorporated as a family-owned business by the man now serving time, Curtis DeYoung, and his wife, Michelle, in 1982 to serve as a third-party administrator for self-directed IRAs and 401(k) accounts.
On April 24, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against APS and Curtis DeYoung alleging the misappropriation of IRA account owners' funds. In its complaint, the SEC outlined Curtis' misappropriation, which included using IRA account owners' funds to invest in high-risk ventures. Los Angeles attorney Diane Thompson was also appointed as receiver for the company that same day to recover funds for the benefit of APS and its account owners.
Thompson argued in court documents that between 2008 and April 24, 2014, the DeYoungs made tithing and other charitable contributions to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of approximately $239,775.
In July 2016, Thompson filed a complaint against the church alleging, among other things, that the tithing and charitable contributions made by Curtis and his wife were made from ill-gotten funds.
The church disputed the allegation, arguing that Michelle's donation's came from legitimate income and that Thompson had to show that the tithes were proceeds from fraudulent transactions.
Last Thursday, however, after victims affected by the case complained about the dispute in local media, the church agreed to settle the case for $150,000.
"They traveled. Nothing but the best. Michelle DeYoung would gush about how you have to fly first class and stay in the nicest resorts," Harry Segura, a member of the LDS Church and victim of the DeYoungs, told KUTV last week.
Segura, who said Michelle was also his neighbor, told KUTV he found it "laughable" that a thief would pay tithing.
He said when the money is eventually returned to the victims they would only be getting a few dollars each. He insisted, however, that the money should be returned because "It's a matter of principle."
As Segura complained about the delay in the church's return of the ill-gotten tithes, Eric Hawkins, spokesman for the LDS Church, said the return was subject to a process.
Curtis DeYoung is serving a 10-year sentence at a federal prison in Florence, Colorado, for his crimes, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Even though Michelle was not convicted of any crime, Hawkins said a request was being made for her tithing money to be returned as well, which created problems for the process.
"The Church has cooperated fully in the negotiation of a settlement, which has been reached and which we anticipate will be made public shortly," Hawkins said just days ahead of the announcement of the settlement.