Mormon Forgery Murders
Bombings rock Salt Lake City
In October of 1985, Mark Hoffman, a counterfeiter of historical documents and an estranged member of the LDS Church, killed two people in Salt Lake City with pipe-bomb explosions.
Hoffman, who is described as one of the world’s most successful forgers, had been selling fake documents to collectors with increasing bravado. His biggest client was the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hoffman had hooked leaders in the late ’70s by “finding” an important document that proved aspects of the Joseph Smith story.
But Hoffman’s scams eventually got away from him. The entire complicated web of deceit, extortion, and fraud hinged on the sale of a collection of papers that had belonged to a renegade early church leader, William McLellin. These papers, Hoffman insinuated, contained information about early church history that contradicted official accounts. Church officials asked local businessman Steven Christensen to broker the deal to buy the controversial papers. It was Christensen who was Hoffman’s first victim. Hoffman’s second victim, the wife of Gary Sheets who was Christensen’s former partner in a failing financial business, was a ruse designed to link the bombing to the business and divert attention away from the document transaction. After Hoffman himself was injured by a third bomb, which he claimed was either for a third victim or himself, the threads began to unravel.
In addition to clever manipulations of LDS church history, Hoffman’s forgeries included reproductions of key pieces of American history. Well after Hoffman pleaded guilty to several counts of murder and fraud in 1987, two of Hoffman’s Emily Dickenson forgeries were auctioned at Sotheby’s for $24,150. Hoffman is now serving a life sentence without parole at the Utah State Prison.