LOS ANGELES -- The president of a defunct Utah savings and loan has pleaded guilty to participating in what the government calls the biggest land fraud in history and will testify against the two principal defendants.
Edward Vetter, 48, who was president of Murray First Thrift & Loan, based in Salt Lake City, admitted to one count of mail fraud Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
Sentencing was set for Jan. 16.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Henry Rossbacher said Vetter agreed to cooperate with the government in its prosecution of Bernard Whitney, 65, of Manhattan Beach, Calif., and Rienk Kamer, a resident of The Netherlands, who were arrested earlier this month.
Federal prosecutors say the scheme bilkedabout 4,000 investors, mostly Europeans, out of up to $500 million.
Wednesday's proceedings apparently were the first public disclosure of Vetter's involvement. He was sole owner of Murray First until the mid 1970s, when the firm was sold.
State banking officials took over the company last year, removed its management and turned over its assets and liabilities to another Utah banking firm.
Vetter allegedly helped finance the fraudulent land deals involving property in Southern California's Antelope Valley, Mayflower Mountain in Utah, and areas near Philipstown, N.Y., and DeKalb, Texas.
The FBI said the company was nothing but a shell, with virtually no assets and estimated losses to investors at about $300 million.
Whitney, who once claimed his firm had investments totaling $500 million, is being held in lieu of $750,000 bail and Kamer is awaiting extradition from Belgium.