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Posts tagged: federal courts

Accused pot smugglers due in court Thursday

Two Canadian men are due in U.S District Court Thursday after being caught near the border this week with what federal agents described as eight duffel bags of marijuana.

William Richard Paterson, 50, and Jahrum David Oakes, 32, are in the Spokane County Jail. A bail hearing is set for tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. to decide if they should be granted bail or remain in custody pending charges of marijuana possession with intent to distribute.

Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Spokane drove to Ferry County on a tip that that drug smugglers were at property near a home at Fourth of July Creek Road in Danville, Wash., adjacent to the border, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Monday.

The homeowner, who was not arrested, let federal agents search his property, where they found Ronnie Mark Buhlinger standing near haystacks about 100 yards west of the home and 500 yards south of the border.

Buhlinger was questioned but released in Spokane “pending further investigation,” agents said.

Paterson and Oakes were arrested after DEA agents spotted them walking from the direction of the border each carrying two large duffel bags of marijuana, according the affidavit.

Four more duffel bags were found at a border fence about 500 yards from where the men were arrested, documents allege.

Agents said the eight bags together weighed about 235 pounds.

Man who eluded feds back in court

A man who eluded federal agents for nearly a month was due in Spokane County Superior Court today, accused of stealing his mother’s car and filling it up with stolen gas while on the run this summer.

Anthony E. Burke, alias Anthony Garver, was sentenced to just under eight months in federal prison in September.

The 21-year-old was arrested July 31 after he never showed up to be taken to the Geiger Work Release Center after he was released from federal prison in California. Federal agents tracked footprints near his mother’s home along East Offmy Lane, west of Newman Lake, and found Burke hiding under a camouflage netting. Burke apologized profusely in a letter to Judge Edward Shea filed Sept. 17.

“Every single day I regret not showing up because I destroyed my chance to be free and to go to school, establish myself, and get it over with and move on with my life,” Burke wrote. “Not to mention prove that I can succeed in completing my supervised released without problems, and also prove that I am not the person that they said I am.”

Court papers filed as part of his federal weapons conviction paint Burke as a troubled young man haunted by his step-father’s abuse and angry at authorities for calling him mentally ill.

“I had the notion that the deck would always be stacked against me,” Burke wrote. “A good portion of my concerns were brought about by stories I was told by people who’ve been on supervised release. However, when I look back I regret being influenced by them because they were probably not credible.”

Burke’s recent charges in Spokane County allege he stole his mother and stepfather’s truck while on the run, then filled it up with nearly $70 in gas he didn’t pay for and drove to Kalispel, Mt.

Read a previous story here.

B.C man in coke bust asks for release

A father of two with no criminal record, accused of bring 38 kilos of cocaine into the country from Canada, will go before a federal magistrate again this Thursday to ask for his release.

Salmon Arm, B.C, resident Michael B. Yuill, 36, (left, dressed as Shrek for Halloween 2005 in a picture from his hometown paper, the Observer) has been in the Spokane County Jail without bail after his arrest Oct. 7.

A federal prosecutor warned of the trouble Yuill could face back home for losing that much cocaine when he argued fro Yuill to remain in jail at a hearing Oct. 13.

U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno took a night to make her decision, ruling the next morning that there isn’t proof Yuill has a plan for his release that would ensure he’d appear for court dates. While Yuill is very close to his mother and has monthly contact with his brothers, Imbrogno noted that no family members attended his bail hearing Tuesday.

“Typically, if a defendant is a citizen from outside the United States, there is strong family support present at the bail hearing with reasonable assurances the family can assist with supervision and with facilitating an individual’s return for court dates,” Imbrogno wrote.

Cue Maureen Yuill, the defendant’s mother, who will be in Spokane Thursday for a hearing on a motion from to reconsider her son’s detention.

She “will offer other letters of support from the community and will address the Court’s concerns regarding a more structured release plan,” according to the motion. “Mr. Yuill is able to post a cash bond and will abide by any conditions as the Court believes is appropriate to ensure his appearance and also safe guard the safety of the community.”

Yuill pleaded not guilty Oct. 27 to one count of possession with intent to deliver 5 kilograms or more of cocaine.

The charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Read more here and here.

UPDATE 11/5/09: Yuill’s hearing was postponed to Nov. 16 after defense counsel said “that new information had been provided,” according to federal court filings.

Valley meth man gets 23 years in prison

A Spokane Valley man will spend 23 years in prison for helping run a meth ring that distributed more than 33 pounds of the drug, the U.S attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Washington announced today.

Daniel A. Flaherty, 36, also will be on probation for 10 years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. The family-based drug trafficking organization operated out of the Tri-Cities and led investigators to more than 30 pounds of meth and $700,000.

Federal agents found more than four pounds of meth in Flaherty’s storage unit in Spokane Valley in October 2008.

Flaherty will give up personal property and more than $23,000 seized from his bank account. He had a prior felony drug conviction that gave him a minimum penalty of 20 years in prison.

A raid at his home in 2004 dismantled his expensive lifestyle, according to an article you can read here.

Federal orders won’t affect local pot cases

New orders from the U.S Justice Department to end federal prosecution of state-authorized medical marijuana patients and dispensaries will have no effect on cases in Eastern Washington, prosecutors said Monday.

The policy memo issued today calls for an end to prosecution of medical marijuana patients who are in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state medical marijuana laws.

Those cases already aren’t prosecuted here, said Jim McDevitt, the U.S attorney for Eastern Washington.

“This office has, at least in my memory, never prosecuted anyone purely and simply because they were a medical marijuana user,” McDevitt said Monday. “But we have gone after them because they’ve basically been a distributor of medical marijuana.”

McDevitt said he is interested in pursuing federal charges against local dispensaries found in violation of the state’s medical marijuana law.

Read the rest of my story here.

Click here to read Jim Camden’s Sunday story on large marijuana growing operations led by Mexican drug cartels that McDevitt said are becoming a big problem in Eastern Washington.

Today’s announcement won’t change much locally. But the debate is raging in California, where weed advocates are gathering signatures to get as many as three pot-legalization measures on the ballot in 2010 in California, according to The Associated Press. (The picture above is from a grow raid in August.)

“Under federal law, marijuana is illegal, period,” the article reads. “After overseeing a series of raids that destroyed more than 300,000 marijuana plants in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills this summer, federal drug czar Gil Kerlikowske proclaimed, “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine.””

Click on the link below to read the full story by Marcus Wohlsen, which was published Oct. 7.

Feds issue ‘clarification’ in cocaine case

An order order issued Wednesday by U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno stated Canadian cocaine suspect Michael B. Yuill’s employer was being investigated “relevant to the pending charges.”

Not true, according to this document filed Friday.

“The Government did not intent to assert that the Defendant’s former employer is under investigation for the pending charges,” according to the document. “The government is aware that the recent fire at the Defendant’s former place of employment is under investigation by Canadian authorities as a suspicious fire. The Government does not have information that the Defendant’s former employer is under investigation for the drug trafficking offense charged in the present case.”

Yuill is being held without bond in the Spokane County Jail after being arrested Oct. 7 with 38 kilos of cocaine in a rented SUV. (Read more here.)

A social networking Web site for his business said Yuill is known in his hometown of Salmon Arm, B.C, as “the guy that dresses up as Shrek every Halloween,” referring to the animated character.

True, according to the local newspaper, the Salmon Arm Observer. The paper this morning emailed us the above photo of Yuill dressed as Shrek in 2005.

GU professor nominated for federal judgeship

WASHINGTON – If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Gonzaga University law professor Rosanna Peterson would become the first woman to serve on Eastern Washington’s U.S. District Court bench.

President Barack Obama announced Peterson’s nomination Tuesday for the vacancy left after Judge Fred Van Sickle’s move to senior status last year. She was chosen for the Eastern District, which encompasses Spokane and 19 other counties, from three finalists selected by a bipartisan committee.

“I’m very honored and extremely appreciative of the vote of confidence from President Obama,” said Peterson, who found out she was nominated after a 6 a.m. phone call from Sen. Patty Murray’s office. 

Read the rest of Jacob Barker’s story here.

B.C man in coke bust to stay in jail

A Canadian citizen arrested in Eastern Washington with more than 80 pounds of cocaine will remain in federal custody, a judge ruled today.

Michael B. Yuill, 36, of Salmon Arm, B.C., has been in Spokane County Jail since his arrest on the Colville Indian Reservation Oct. 7. DEA agents found 38 kilos of cocaine in his rented Nissan Sport Utility Vehicle, according to federal court documents.

U.S Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno said in a ruling filed this morning that there isn’t proof Yuill has a plan for his release that would ensure he’d appear for court dates. While Yuill is very close to his mother and has monthly contact with his brothers, Imbrogno noted that no family members attended his bail hearing Tuesday.

“Typically, if a defendant is a citizen from outside the United States, there is strong family support present at the bail hearing with reasonable assurances the family can assist with supervision and with facilitating an individual’s return for court dates,” Imbrogno wrote.

Yuill’s public defender said his employer at a Salmon Arm saloon can help with bond, but federal prosecutors say that man is being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in connection to Yuill’s charges, according to Imbrogno’s ruling. (UPDATE: prosecutors say the investigation is NOT related to the cocaine bust.)

Federal agents began tracking Yuill, an electrician and father of two with no criminal record, after Spokane International Airport police said he’d rented several SUVs in the last four months and returned them with unusually high mileage.

Read my previous story here.

B.C man busted near Spokane with 38 kilos of coke

Spokane International Airport police suspected something was going on with the Canadian man they’d seen several times. In the last four months, he’d rented several SUVs and returned them after racking up unusually high mileage – some 3,000 miles apiece.

Based on that tip, agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration began tracking Michael Barry Yuill, a 36-year-old resident of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, a small community about 300 miles north of Spokane.

Now, Yuill is facing federal drug trafficking charges in what authorities are describing as a major Eastern Washington cocaine seizure.

Read the rest of my story here.

On a Facebook page for his small business, Yuill is described as being known in Salmon Arm “the guy that dresses up as Shrek every Halloween,” referring to the popular’s children’s movie. Check it out here.

TV network wants Blade Runner docs unsealed

A Canadian television network is working to unseal court documents in Eastern Washington federal court about the drug bust that led to a legendary young mountain biker’s death in the Spokane County Jail.

Lawyers for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation filed a motion last week asking a judge to unseal documents in the federal case against a man arrested while en route to meet Samuel Jackson Lindsay-Brown.

Jail officials say Brown (left and bottom right) committed suicide in jail Feb. 27 after landing a helicopter filled with 420 pounds of marijuana in the Colville National Forest and being met by federal agents Feb. 23.

Federal agents had just busted Leonard J. Ferris and Ross N. Legge with 83 kilograms of cocaine in Utah on Feb. 21.

The arrests revealed a vast drug dealing conspiracy dubbed Operation Blade Runner, which federal agents believe dates back at least five years. ’

Court documents say Ferris and Legge, who had rented storage facilities around Spokane, were to exchange the cocaine to Brown for the marijuana. Originally charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Ferris pleaded guilty in April, but no public record of a sentencing exists in the federal court file, most of which is sealed.

The motion, filed Oct. 5 by the Seattle law firm Davis, Wright Tremaine LLP, said it’s unclear what exactly is sealed in Ferris’ file because even the motion to seal is sealed.

“Presumably, these are sentencing-related documents,” according to the motion. “The Ninth Circuit has recognized the media’s legitimate interest in such documents because of the media’s ability to explain how sentencing decisions are made.”

A documentary news show for CBC called “the fifth estate” is investigating Brown’s death, which is notably not refered to as a suicide in the network’s court filings.

Brown’s death came a week before another young man, Jeremy Snow, was arrested as he landed a helicopter in North Idaho meant to deliver 300 pounds of marijuana and 40,000 pills of Ecstasy.

Snow was sentenced Oct. 2 in Western Washington District Court to 46 months in prison. According to court filings, federal agents accessed Blackberry messages Snow sent to friends and the cohorts his lawyer says pressured him to take the flight.

“During the actual flight, he sent a message which read ‘Flyen 300p over brdr right now! Cha ching,’” according to Snow’s sentencing memorandum. “The government believes that this translates to read that he was flying over the US-Canadian border at that moment and that he was expecting to be well-paid for doing so.”

After Brown, Legge and Ferris were arrested, undercover agents infiltrated the group and set up Snow, court documents show.

(Read a grand jury indictment detailing Operation Blade Runner here.)

The Fifth Estate documentary will likely explore all of this in much greater detail. Court files for Brown and Legge, who is in federal custody in Utah and has not entered a plea, have already been unsealed.

The unsealed affidavit in the case of Brown, who was profiled in Rolling Stone this summer, offers few new details on his arrest, other than this quote: “Lindsay-Brown stated that: “Morally, there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing. It’s pot and that’s it.”

No hearing has been set CBC’s motion to unseal.

Courthouse watch: 9.24.09

A man who investigators say killed his wife and severely beat the man she was having sex with when he walked in on them earlier this month pleaded innocent today to murder and other charges in U.S. District Court.

Kevin I. Pakootas, 23, is accused of fatally beating Colette Peone Pakootas, 23, and injuring Mark Edgett after leaving a party and discovering the pair together about 4:30 a.m. Sept. 5 at his home in rural Inchelium, Wash., which is on the Colville Indian Reservation south of Kettle Falls.

Read the rest of my story here.

Courthouse watch: 9.23.09

The ailing mother of a man who died after being struck, Tasered and hogtied by Spokane police officers should have a chance to have her statement preserved for a civil lawsuit even though a criminal trial is pending, a federal judge ruled today.

U.S. District Judge Lonny Suko refused to grant a request by federal prosecutors to halt all discovery in a separate civil suit involving the 2006 death of Otto Zehm.

Read the rest of Jim Camden’s story in tomorrow’s Spokesman-Review

Lawyer: Moore’s federal charges ‘beatable’

The firearm silencer and rifle Brian L. Moore is charged with illegally possessing weren’t recovered during a search of his warehouse in Orange County, Calif., by Spokane police.

They were recovered when Moore’s brother, Dan Moore, gave them to police and said he’d found them in the warehouse after the search. That detail was revealed Tuesday at a bail hearing for Moore in federal court in Spokane, in which he was ordered to stay in jail pending his return to California to face two federal charges of possession of an unregistered firearm.

(Moore was arrested in April and accused of helping his girlfriend, Shellye L. Stark, plot the Dec. 9, 2007, murder of her husband, Dale Stark. Prosecutors dropped the charges this month but say they’ll refile.)

Moore’s public defender, Tina Hunt, questioned Detective Kip Hollenbeck (top right) about that in an effort to convince U.S Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno that Moore should be released and allowed to return home on his own.

Hunt went through each witness statement and pointed out the fact that none had actually said they’d heard Moore (bottom left) say he had anything to do Dale Stark’s murder. She also highlighted conflicts in each witnesses’ relationship with Moore that she argued discredited them.

“Each and every one of these witnesses have biases that attach to them,” Hunt said. “All of these women have reason to lie.”

Hunt scoffed at the state’s claim that the first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder charges against Moore will be refiled, saying that “common sense” indicates that if prosecutors had a strong murder case, they wouldn’t put it aside so the feds could proceed on less serious weapons charges.

“There’s nothing (for the witnesses) to be afraid of anymore because these charges have been dismissed,” Hunt said. She later said the federal charges look “beatable.”

She also asked how, in “all of the deviousness” police allege encompasses Moore, could he have lived 43 years with no criminal record?

“The truth is because he’s not the person that they are alleging,” Hunt said.

But Imbrogno ruled that Assistant U.S Attorney Matt Duggan had shown through Hollenbeck’s testimony that Moore was in fact a risk to the public and ordered him to remain in federal custody.

He’ll now be transported to California.

Moore to remain in federal custody

The boyfriend of convicted killer Shellye L. Stark will remain in custody on federal weapons charges, a judge ruled today.

Brian L. Moore’s public defender, Tina Hunt, had asked that Moore be released and allowed to return to Orange County, Calif., on his own.

But assistant U.S Attorney Matt Duggan used testimony from Spokane police Detective Kip Hollenbeck to try to show that Moore is a threat to public safety.

Magistrate Judge Cynthia Imbrogno agreed and granted a motion to hold Moore.

Moore was arrested in April on charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, but those charges were dismissed this month at the request of the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office.

Prosecutors say they’ll refile, but the move is largely seen as a way to avoid a hearing in which a judge was to rule on the defense’s motion to dismiss.

By making the dismissal request, the prosecutor’s office made it so the charges were dismissed without prejudice instead of with prejudice, meaning they can be refiled and not evoke double jeopardy.

I’ll post more details from the hearing later today. UPDATE: Ran out of time today; check back tomorrow.

Feds want Carlson’s Benz, cash

A prominent school booster charged in a major cocaine dealing investigation could be forced to give up $40,000 and his Mercedes Benz, newly filed court documents show.

Jerald Stuart Carlson was indicted on a federal drug forfeiture charge last week, more than seven months after a police raid at a storage facility behind his insurance business on Government Way north of Coeur d’Alene.

The charge, filed Sept. 15, demands that Carlson give up assets related to charges of conspiracy to posses within intent to distribute cocaine, possession with intent to distribute cocaine and attempt to posses with intent to distribute cocaine.

Each of the three charges involves more than 500 grams - or half a kilogram - of cocaine and stems from allegations dating back to November 2007.

The drug forfeiture charge, which calls for Carlson to give up “at least” $40,000 and a 1999 Mercedes Benz already seized by the DEA, is the first filing in the case since a judge extended the trial date in July.

In a motion requesting that extension, Carlson’s lawyer, James Siebe, said he and his client were considering a plea deal. (The new trial date is set for Oct. 27, with pretrial motions due a week from today. UPDATE: Trial now set for Jan. 26, 2010.)

Carlson graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School in 1980 and was named the school’s booster of the year for the 2006-07 school year.

CHS administrators were nearly speechless when they learned of his arrest. (His Farmers Insurance business has since closed.) Read about it here, with a follow up available  here.

Courthouse watch: 9.15.09

The married boyfriend of convicted killer Shellye Stark could be released from jail Thursday.

Brian L. Moore’s public defender argued for him to be released at a bail hearing today, but a judge delayed the decision so federal officials can verify where Moore will be staying in Orange County.

Assistant U.S Attorney Jill Bolton had asked for Moore to remain in custody until he’s transported to California to face federal weapons charges. Her reasoning hinged on the fact that Moore has no money to pay for his return to California.

“This is the first time I’ve heard we should hold a defendant so he can get a free ride home,” said Moore’s lawyer, Tina Hunt.

Moore’s transportation to California can be worked out with family members, Hunt said.

“He doesn’t need a free ride with the Marshal’s office,” she said.

Absent from the government’s argument to hold Moore was the fact that the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office intends to refile charges of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

“The case was dismissed,” Hunt said. “There’s no reason to hold him on anything or believe that he did anything wrong.”

The charges being dropped basically amounts to an act of legal maneuvering by the prosecutor’s office to avoid having a judge address the defense’s motion to dismiss, which was set for Thursday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James Hutton, appearing via video from Yakima, said, “It’s unclear to me that Mr. Moore has the financial means to return to California, but I agree with Ms. Hunt that that’s not necessarily the basis for continuing his confinement. He does appear to have significant contacts with Orange County, California.”

A new bail hearing is set for Thursday at 1:30 p.m.

Feds in Zehm case critical of Treppiedi

Federal prosecutors have grown increasingly critical of what they describe as questionable behavior by the Spokane Police Department’s chief legal adviser, who reportedly used his position to provide “traditionally confidential” information to the officer under FBI investigation following the fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm.

In documents filed recently in U.S. District Court, prosecutors describe a pattern of behavior by Assistant Spokane City Attorney Rocky Treppiedi (pictured right, and above at the scene of an officer-involved shooting in July) that raises questions about whether the city actively sought to interfere with the federal investigation that led to a grand jury indictment of Officer Karl F. Thompson.

Treppiedi disputes any suggestion that he has acted improperly. Read the rest of Thomas Clouse’s story here.

In this 2007 profile by Bill Morlin and Karen Dorn Steele, Treppiedi is described by friends as zealous and effective, and by foes as hostile to open government and blind to police misconduct.

Courthouse watch: 8.17.09

Two men charged in a major cocaine ring were to appear in federal court today.

Maurisio Ramirez, 29, and Gilberto Acevedo-Adame, 31, have been in Spokane County Jail since Aug. 12 on three federal charges of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. 

Court documents allege the men conspired to distribute cocaine in Yellowstone and Carbon counties in Montana from January 2004 to September 2008. 

A third man, Domingo Baez, was charged in U.S District Court in Montana in December.

Ramirez’s and Acevedo-Adame’s bail hearing in Eastern Washington District Court was postponed to next week after the men obtained private defense lawyers. 

Senit Lutgen is representing Ramirez; Bryan Whitaker is representing Acevdo-Adame.

Baez is accused of being a major cocaine king pin who distributed drugs to even a county prosecutor. Read a story on that here.

Courthouse watch: 8.14.09

A Spokane man who stockpiled what federal prosecutors described as a “troubling” arsenal of illegal weapons will spend the next four years in prison.

Ronald L. Struve, 67, was also sentenced today in Seattle to two years probation and ordered to undergo mental health treatment. U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman said his arsenal posed “a huge danger to the community,” according to the Associated Press.

Struve, a legal stenographer, was arrested in Spokane in January after federal agents raided a storage locker in Bellevue, seizing 37 machine guns, 54 grenades, two grenade launchers and 7.5 pounds of C-4 plastic explosives.

The arsenal was discovered when rent wasn’t paid and the Bellevue unit’s contents were auctioned last November.

The agents also searched a stored vehicle and two rental units at 2814 N. Napa St. in Spokane leased by Struve, seizing seven machine guns, a Russian sniper rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle, and a host of machine gun parts that are illegal to own without proper federal licenses.

Agents also seized 33 other legal firearms for safekeeping from the north Spokane location, according to court documents. Prosecutors say many of the weapons had been stolen from the military.

The arsenal was discovered when rent wasn’t paid and the unit’s contents were auctioned last November. Struve was born in Los Angeles and worked as a court reporter in Eugene, Ore; King County Superior Court and as a freelance court reporter in Spokane, according to Stansell.

Struve’s lawyer, Jay Stansell, has described his client as “nothing more than a loner-type person with some unusual political ideas.”

In a sentencing memorandum, Stansell said Struve collected the weapons back in the 1970s for fear of a Cold War threat.

He bought the weapons over several years from a man he met at a gun show who claimed to be a Navy SEAL, Stansell wrote, as was “chagrined and embarrassed” to be facing prison time now.

“As time passed, and as the perceived imminent threat of communist invasion never materialized, Mr. Struve found himself encumbered by this long ago acquired arsenal,” Stransell wrote. “But he never attempted to dispose of it, because of the obvious, practical difficulties of doing so, as well as his personal inclination to never get rid of anything.”

Medicaid fraud gets woman 2 1/2 years

A Spokane woman who defrauded the Idaho Medicaid program of more than $200,000 will spend 2 1/2 years in prison.

Candace J. Elmer, 53, operated a psychosocial rehabilitation center, Behavioral Intervention Services, which illegally billed Medicaid for services Elmer didn’t provide or wasn’t authorized to provide or that she wasn’t even providing, according to federal court documents.

The fraud began in November 2002, according to court documents. Elmer and her boyfriend, John C. Knudson, Jr. were charged in federal court in November 2007. 

Court documents shows Elmer tried to take back her guilty plea and fired a lawyer, R.D Watson, she said forced her to take the plea.

Watson denied pressuring Elmer and wrote in court documents that Elmer was upset because Knudson had received a lighter sentence. Knudson’s sentencing information is sealed in his federal court file. Spokane lawyer Bryan Whitaker now represents Elmer.

U.S District Judge Edward Lodge ordered Elmer to pay $217,000 in restitution at her sentencing Thursday, which he called a “conservative” estimate of her fraud’s cost, according to a news release.

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