Happy leap day! You get an extra 24 hours this year, let's make it count.

🎧 Sounds like: "One More Time" by Daft Punk

Today's newsletter is 899 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: '90s teen tech whiz faces serious accusations

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Joseph Firmage, a '90s teen tech prodigy who became known as "the Fox Mulder of Silicon Valley," is accused of taking money from an 80-year-old woman he moved in with, cutting off access to her family and leaving her in a squalid Salt Lake City home without water or electricity.

  • That's on top of a federal lawsuit alleging he defrauded investors out of $25 million since 2022 in a Ponzi scheme promising government contracts for his cutting-edge aerospace technology.

Catch up fast: Firmage rose to fame after founding a software company from his bedroom in Salt Lake City when he was a teenager, later selling it for $24 million to Novell and founding the digital design company USWeb in 1995.

The latest: A judge this month ordered Firmage to stand trial on charges of financially exploiting and abusing a vulnerable adult.

  • The woman he lived with said he promised $3,000 monthly rent but never paid, charging documents state. Instead, he allegedly took control of the woman's finances as her "caretaker" and failed to pay her bills, detectives wrote.
  • A social worker asked police for help last June because the woman had lost substantial weight and said Firmage had canceled her phone service, police wrote.
  • Meanwhile, her social security checks weren't being deposited, her bank account was empty and her utilities were shut off, police wrote.

The intrigue: That week, a group of investors sued Firmage, alleging he and his partners falsely claimed to have secured $200 million in government contracts for his "new and radical form of propulsion technology," the complaint states.

  • "In reality, the … project had been at a dead-end since at least 2019, and Firmage's concept for a new form of propulsion technology had been discredited by multiple scientists," the lawsuit states.

Utah's affinity for fraud

Your future begins here

💼 Check out who's hiring on our Job Board.

  1. Head of Ethics at Circle.
  2. Director, Corporate Communications at Myriad Genetics.
  3. Social Media Director at ZAGG, Inc.

Want more opportunities? Check out our Job Board.

Hiring? Use code FIRST50 for $50 off your first job post.

2. 🐘 Haley continues Trump attacks in Utah

Nikki Haley address reporters at Utah Valley University on Feb. 28. Photo: Isaac Hale/UVU Marketing

GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley told Utahns that voters deserve a leader with "moral clarity" during a campaign rally Tuesday at Utah Valley University.

Why it matters: The former U.N. ambassador's visit to Utah comes as she makes a last-minute plea to voters ahead of the Super Tuesday primary.

What she's saying: "If Donald Trump is the nominee, we will lose. It is that simple," she said to the crowd.

  • Haley criticized the direction the Republican Party is heading under former President Trump's influence.
  • "At some point, if Republicans really want to get this back on track, we've got to acknowledge that maybe it's him. Maybe Donald Trump is the reason we're losing."

Inside the room: During her address, one heckler yelled: "You didn't win South Carolina!" — a reference to Haley's embarrassing double-digit loss in her home state's GOP primary.

The intrigue: Haley has garnered considerable support from some of Utah's top GOP leaders.

  • Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson and first lady Abby Cox endorsed the former South Carolina governor in January.

State of play: GOP voters have demonstrated lukewarm support for Trump in Utah, a deeply religious state where many residents belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • During Utah's GOP primary in 2016, Trump came in third, collecting about 14% of the vote.
  • Trump went on to garner about 45% of the vote on Election Day that year — the lowest share of any other red state.

The other side: Days before Haley's address, a coalition of Republican elected officials released a letter supporting Trump's re-election, including Senate President Stuart Adams, House Speaker Mike Schultz and Attorney General Sean Reyes, the Deseret News reported.

Full story

3. Fry Sauce: Chow down on this news

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

⚾ A measure that would use sales tax to build an MLB stadium in Salt Lake City is on its way to the governor's desk. (FOX 13)

⛺️ Lawmakers have slashed Gov. Spencer Cox's requested $115 million budget for homelessness resources, instead considering $55 million for a new shelter, a legal camping area and other services. (Salt Lake Tribune)

Kevin Franke, who filed for divorce from disgraced YouTube star Ruby Franke, wrote in support of a Utah bill that would require state registration and professional standards for life coaches — a profession that is presently unregulated. (KSL.com)

  • Ruby and her life coach, Jodi Hildebrandt were sentenced to prison last week after pleading guilty to abusing Franke's children and telling them they were "possessed."

4.📅 Your weekend plans

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Here are a few ideas to get you out of your home this weekend:

🎉 Mardi Gras for kids

The Discovery Gateway Children's Museum will host a family-oriented Mardi Gras celebration, featuring a reptile show, arts and crafts and a soda bar.

When: Friday; 6–8pm

Cost: Museum admission is required — $13.50 for adults or $12.50 for kids.

🎧 Tom & Collins

The Mexico City-based duo, known for fusing Latin and electronic dance beats, is slated to perform at Soundwell.

When: Saturday at 9:15pm

Cost: $17.50 for general admission

Before you go: This is a 21-or-over event.

🎨 Saturday Market

This Saturday pop-up market at Millcreek Common features crafts by local artists, as well as food vendors.

When: The market will run through March 17; 11am–3pm

Cost: Free

Tell a friend

💚 Kim loved returning to Utah Valley University yesterday, where she graduated from in 2019.

👸🏻Erin is 100% on board with the theory that Kate Middleton has ceased public appearances not because of recent abdominal surgery as Kensington Palace claims, but because she's an Oompa Loompa at that janky Willy Wonka "immersive" experience in Glasgow.

This newsletter was edited by Ross Terrell and copy edited by Natasha Danielle Smith and Yasmeen Altaji.