SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A fraud trial opened Tuesday for a Utah businessman whose billboards lined the highway before he was charged with running a $100 million Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say drained people's home equity, life savings and retirement funds.

Self-proclaimed "Latter-day Capitalist" Rick Koerber is charged with 18 federal counts including money laundering and securities fraud, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (

Koerber was once a larger-than-life figure in a cowboy hat offering $2,000 real estate seminars and hosting a radio show about American principles.

He spent lavishly on a mansion and luxury cars, once telling a story on his program about buying a Ferrari so he didn't have to wait for service on his Maserati. When a radio caller questioned whether that was in accord with Christian teachings, he answered: "God is a capitalist, my friend."

Originally from Wyoming, Koerber converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was 17. He started an internet service provider business, but later ran afoul of Wyoming regulators and moved to Utah, where he started buying homes and renting or reselling them.

Prosecutors say his businesses weren't profitable, and he used cash from new investors to pay previous ones to make it look like he was making money. The enterprise fell apart after the bottom fell out of the national real estate market in 2007, they said.

His lawyer Marcus Mumford said his client is innocent, and maintained that prosecutors sometimes mistakenly file white-collar cases because they don't understand business. He has also questioned how prosecutors conducted their investigation.

Mumford is a well-known lawyer who has won an acquittal for the bookkeeper of millionaire Jeremy Johnson and was wrestled to the ground in an Oregon courtroom after successfully representing Ammon Bundy in the occupation of a national wildlife refuge.

A judge sided with him and threw out charges against Koerber in 2014. U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups also scolded prosecutors for what he said were violations of ethics and Koerber's constitutional rights.

Prosecutors appealed that decision and filed a new case in January.