Judge orders Isaiah Kingston detained in tax fraud case

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal magistrate judge has ordered Washakie Renewable Energy CFO Isaiah Kingston detained in a massive tax fraud case against him.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells ordered Kingston to remain in jail, noting he transferred at least $52 million to a bank in Turkey, a country where the U.S. cannot extradite him.

Isaiah Kingston (image courtesy Weber County Jail)

Kingston is facing money laundering charges. His brother, Washakie CEO Jacob Kingston, is also facing fraud charges alongside Lev Derman (also known as Levon Termendzhyan). The three are charged in a scheme accusing them of bilking the federal government out of $511 million in reusable fuel tax credits. In court, federal prosecutors alleged the scheme intended to bilk the government out of more than $1 billion. The case stems from a 2016 raid on businesses tied to the Kingston polygamous group.

In court on Friday, government lawyers argued Kingston was a flight risk and a danger to the community. Former IRS Special Agent Wade Barratt testified about text messages hinting at intimidating witnesses, bribing government officials and millions being transferred by Isaiah Kingston to the bank in Turkey, where a home was also purchased.

The hearing took a strange twist when assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Goemaat asked Barratt about Jacob Kingston’s activities in Turkey. She asked Barratt if he had information Jacob Kingston met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Barratt said yes.

But Kingston’s defense attorney argued that a lot of the accusations were pointed at Jacob Kingston and not Isaiah. Scott Williams argued that his client has no criminal history and has not fled, despite being under investigation since at least 2016.

When Williams tried to inquire if there were pending investigations, lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice objected and the line of questioning was shut down.

Williams said his client is a father of eight children whose wife is due to give birth very soon. Goemaat argued Kingston has motive to flee, facing decades in prison if he is convicted and has already stashed money in a Turkish bank.

“It’s the parachute. The $134 million in Turkey is everybody’s parachute,” she told the judge.

“We have no evidence… that Isaiah Kingston could ever have any of that,” Williams argued, asking for ankle monitoring and supervision instead of jail.

Judge Wells was not persuaded.

“You paint your client as a pawn. As a weak person who is subject to the influence, presumably, of his brother and co-defendant,” she told Williams, later adding: “Your client, I don’t think, is a pawn.”

She said she believed he did have access to millions in Turkey. She also expressed concern about reports of him being involved in the potential threats against witnesses in the case.

Kingston was ordered detained in jail pending an October trial. Outside court, Williams told FOX 13 he would appeal.

“He’s not even charged with any fraud. He’s charged with two counts of money laundering in 2013,” he said. “The point is to impeach this argument that somehow he has access to the means to flee, assuming he ever had the intent to do so. Assuming he would ever have the intent to do so.”

Jacob Kingston will appear in court for a detention hearing on Sept. 17. The judge has ordered him to remain in jail at least until then.