Posts tagged: U.S. District Court
A recently filed U.S. Supreme Court opinion has federal prosecutors asking for about $2 million more in restitution from jailed Spokane developer Greg Jeffreys, who pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud in a series of real estate schemes.
Sentencing documents filed ahead of a scheduled hearing in June had originally asked Jeffreys - who admitted in November to duping individual investors and banks on projects including condominiums, units in the downtown Ridpath Tower and a military facility off Highway 2 - to pay back $10.3 million. But a decision rendered in Washington, D.C., earlier this month in the case of a convicted mortgage fraudster out of Wisconsin prompted prosecutors to revise that amount closer to $12 million.
The unanimous decision in Robers v. United States, decided in a lightning-fast (for the court) 10 weeks after oral argument, overturned restitution guidelines set forth by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to prosecutors. While the Wisconsin court ruled Benjamin Robers, a man who bought two houses using fraudulent loan applications, must pay the difference between the amount the bank lent and how much the properties sold for after foreclosure, the Ninth Circuit had calculated restitution based on the value of forfeited properties at the time they were seized. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in February 2013 to settle the dispute in the way the two courts calculated restitution.
The decision affirming the Wisconsin court's practice increases the amount Jeffreys owes banks and investors on three properties that were foreclosed upon, prosecutors say in documents filed last week. This includes units in the downtown Ridpath tower.
Jeffreys' ex-wife, Kimberly Jeffreys, also pleaded guilty in February to a charge of fraud in dealings surrounding the military facility. She is tentatively scheduled to be sentenced in July for her role in the scheme, facing a potential six-month sentence and restitution of close to $160,000.
Shannon Stiltner, a woman who lived with Greg Jeffreys in Las Vegas and pleaded guilty in November to deliberately ignoring signs her boyfriend was swindling investors, is serving her seven-month sentence at a federal detention center in Seattle. Stiltner has been ordered to pay $58,000 in restitution and is scheduled for release in August.
Prosecutors have not filed requests to change Kimberly Jeffreys' or Shannon Stiltner's restitution amounts.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly named the man who pleaded guilty Monday. The story has been updated to correct the error.
A Spokane man caught by the Secret Service engaging in online trading of child pornography faces a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a federal felony charge Monday.
Ryan Raymond Joseph Comerford will have to register as a sex offender in compliance with a plea deal reached in U.S. District Court. Comerford was indicted in September on multiple child pornography counts after a Secret Service sting revealed evidence he was using a peer-to-peer network to receive explicit images and videos featuring children.
Comerford pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released pending trial, which was scheduled for next week. He admitted using marijuana in violation of his release conditions, and was arrested again in January.
Defense attorneys were provided with the digital evidence in the case last month.
As part of the agreement, Comerford will remain on probation for 20 years after his release and be barred from contact with minors. A judge is expected to rule on the agreement in July.
The owner of a houseboat charged with assaulting a National Park Service ranger during a dispute about loud music before another opened fire, injuring a guest, says he was recorded secretly after the shooting.
Michael Sublie has been charged with assault and obstruction of justice stemming from the Sept. 14 incident at the Kettle River Campground just northwest of Kettle Falls. According to court documents, rangers Joshua Wentz and Matthew Phillipson approached Sublie's boat - moored for an end-of-the-summer party, witnesses said – after 10 p.m., established quiet hours on the secluded, federally owned property.
Wentz used pepper spray and a stun gun in an attempt to subdue Sublie, then was pushed from the gangplank, according to court documents filed last week. Phillipson opened fire with his service weapon, striking passenger Casey Hartinger in the side.
Hartinger was standing near his children, aged 10 and 14, when he was fired upon, according to court documents.
U.S. Assistant Attorney Tyler Tornabene asked a judge to preclude all evidence of the shooting from jurors' ears, arguing Phillipson fired after the commission of the alleged crimes. But Sublie's attorney, Roger Peven, said in filings Tuesday the events occurred simultaneously, and it would confuse jurors to divide the two.
“The shooting happened literally during the middle of the interaction between Mr. Sublie and Ranger Wentz when Ranger Phillipson discharged his weapon,” Peven wrote.
Peven also alleges that Sublie was surreptitiously recorded by National Park Service rangers during a discussion with a local police officer who responded to the scene. Sublie was placed in a National Forest Service patrol car when he spoke with the officer, whom he knew, according to court documents. Peven wrote rangers placed a recording device in the car to keep tabs on what was said.
Hartinger received medical attention from medical technicians already present at the scene, according to court documents. He was later treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane and released. He has not been charged with any crimes in the incident.
A jury trial in the case is tentatively scheduled for May. Sublie, who is not in custody and has no other criminal history, faces up to a year-and-a-half in prison if convicted.
A judge has ordered the sentencing for married couple Greg and Kimberly Jeffreys, both of whom pleaded guilty to defrauding development investors in Spokane and elsewhere, pushed to the summer.
For Greg Jeffreys, the accused mastermind of schemes ranging from leasing property at inflated rices in the restored Ridpath Hotel downtown and bilking the federal government of funds in the construction of a military installation off Highway 2, it is the second continuance granted ahead of sentencing. Prosecutors want Jeffreys to serve eight years in prison and pay back millions in restitution from fraudulent schemes, but Jeffreys plans to fight that amount by calling a cavalcade of witnesses at his sentencing hearing.
That hearing will now tentatively take place in June, according to a court order signed last week.
Kimberly Jeffreys, who pleaded guilty in February to fraud charges stemming from the military installation construction, was granted her first sentencing continuance. A hearing scheduled for next month has been pushed to July, according to court records. For her involvement, prosecutors want Kimberly Jeffreys to spend six months in prison and pay restitution of up to $150,000.
A third conspirator, Shannon Stiltner, was sentenced in February to seven months of prison time and ordered to pay restitution to two investors totaling about $58,000.
The woman who lived with jailed Spokane developer Greg Jeffreys and was implicated in his schemes to defraud real estate investors was sentenced to seven months in prison last week after pleading guilty to concealing plots through ignorance and conspiracy.
Shannon Stiltner was also ordered to pay more than $58,000 in restitution to two defrauded investors by a federal judge at a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court on Feb. 10. Jeffreys was originally slated to be sentenced last week as well, but that hearing was stayed as attorneys continue to stipulate the amount the former real estate developer owes, which may total in the millions.
In court documents asking U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson to accept the seven-month sentence, Stiltner said Jeffreys swept her off her feet after a failed marriage, guiding her drug-addicted daughter to sobriety.
“(Jeffreys') actions established a deep and powerful trust between him and Shannon,” Stiltner's attorney, John McEntire, wrote.
That trust kept her from questioning Jeffreys' business deals, even after news reports began to indicate something was wrong, McEntire said.
Stiltner's sentence ends one chapter of a legal saga that has been ongoing since Jeffreys' arrest more than a year ago. Jeffreys' wife, Kimberly, continues her legal fight with a trial tentatively scheduled for April. Greg Jeffreys sentencing, at which dozens of witnesses are expected to testify about his alleged debts, will take place in March.
The sentencing of jailed developer Greg Jeffreys, who pleaded guilty to fraud and contempt charges in November, will take a little longer than planned, in part to accommodate the dozens of witnesses the former Ridpath Hotel investor plans to call on his behalf.
A U.S. District Court judge this week delayed a hearing, expected to last at least two days, at which Jeffreys is expected to dispute the amount owed numerous debtors listed in court filings. Scheduled for February, the sentencing and a decision on how much Jeffreys owes in restitution will not come until later in March.
In his request for the continuance, Jeffreys and his attorney cite an extensive witness list - including bankers, assessors and family members - as part of the reason for the needed delay. In total, Jeffreys plans to call more than 30 people to testify about his debts and character. Some of those he plans to call were involved in leasing deals at the Ridpath, Spokane's historic hotel whose revitalization was impeded by Jeffreys' legal woes.
Jeffreys was indicted in January 2013 on multiple federal counts of bank and wire fraud, money laundering and theft tied to real estate dealings and developments that never materialized. Jeffreys and his wife, Kimberly, were implicated in a plot to steal federal government money when constructing a military entrance processing station off Highway 2. Employee Shannon Stiltner, who allegedly shared a casino suite with Jeffreys in Las Vegas, also pleaded guilty in November to concealing knowledge of a Ponzi scheme.
Stiltner's sentencing is still set for February.
The Spokane man accused of sending threatening letters to a tribal police officer that included allusions to his belief he was the “Archangel of Death” remains in custody pending trial after a federal judge shot down his contention the mailings were protected by the First Amendment.
Brent Russ, 33, argued earlier this month the letters he sent a former neighbor expressed his religious views, not an intimidating intent. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice denied the claim, as well as a request from Russ that he be released from custody ahead of his upcoming trial after two mental health experts deemed he posed no threat to the community.
“The Court continues to harbor reasonable concerns about Defendant’s mental stability that prohibit it from releasing Defendant at this time,” Rice wrote in an order denying Russ' release. Rice also found the language of the letter suggesting legal action, in which Russ wrote that he would “take everything you have, everything you ever had, and everything you ever will have through the courts,” was not solely a legal communication and thus did not qualify for First Amendment protection.
Concerns about Russ' mental state were raised after a disturbing manifesto was found at his home by federal agents investigating the stalking claims. In the journal, Russ admits slaying nocturnal creatures by slicing through their brains with a Samurai sword and says he experienced a “download” in early 2013 that prompted him to file lawsuits against the nation's biggest banks. He also wrote about sending plans to dissolve the government to President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, according to court documents.
Russ has been in custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. Defense attorney Andrea George has asked Rice to push the trial date from later this month to February to allow more time for experts to determine Russ' mental state.
A conman who went to prison for duping people out of $124,000 for a fraudulent cattle farm investment is likely headed back here after pleading guilty to a similar scheme in North Idaho.
James Andrew Harris, 44, pleaded guilty to wire fraud Monday and faces up to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 5.
Harris admitted to stealing about $108,000 from a Florida resident whom he'd solicited as an investor in the beef industry.
Harris told the victim he had a “connection” who helped restaurants, supermarkets and other purchasers of beef finance their purchases, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney's Office. “Harris represented that there was a great deal of money to be made in financing the purchases and encouraged the individual to participate.”
Harris created the email account firstname.lastname@example.org to assist in the fraud, which occurred between July 2010 and June 2011.
The fraud began less than three months after Harris was released from federal prison after being sentenced to 27 months for the cattle investment fraud. Harris paid those investors with counterfeit checks, according to a plea agreement.
Judy Reisner wants her son, Kevin Ellison, to get mental health treatment, but he sits in the Spokane County Jail. (SRPhoto/Dan Pelle)
A former pro football player arrested for arson in June remains in solitary confinement at the Spokane County Jail, and his mother says his mental health issues will worsen without treatment.
Kevin Marcus Ellison, 25, who was a starting linebacker and defensive back for the Spokane Shock arena football team, has twice been denied release from jail for mental health treatment. His lawyer appealed U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno’s last decision, but U.S. District Court Judge Lonny Suko rejected the appeal Aug. 1, citing in part an altercation Ellison had with jailers last month.
Ellison’s mother, Judy Reisner, traveled from Los Angeles to Spokane to visit Ellison in jail on Wednesday. He’s not doing well, she said.
Watch me talk about this story with KHQ's Dave Cotton:
A 78-year-old man who allowed drug traffickers to use his property just south of the Canadian border in Ferry County will spend 2 1/2 years in federal prison, a judge ruled Thursday.
Alvin Oliver Shields had 700 pounds of marijuana on his property when federal agents searched it in 2009. His lawyer, Jeffry Finer, said he retired from drug trafficking two years before a grand jury indicted him in September.
Shields and his wife live in Lebanon, Ore. His criminal history includes only a conviction for petty larceny in 1958.
Finer described him in court documents as a good humored man with poor hearing and early signs of dementia. He graduated high school in the 1950s but can't remember the year. He also couldn't initially remember the name of his first wife.
“Mr. Shields was ultimately able to provide it to Probation when he noticed it was tattooed on his left arm,” Finer wrote.
Prosecutors say Shields lived in Canada for 30 years. Federal agents began investigating Shields in 2003 after a Border Patrol agent found four duffel bags with 140 pounds of marijuana after four people ran from Fourth of July Creek Road, west of Danville, into Canada.
The agent then saw Shields “driving slowly in a van with the rear cargo doors propped open,” according to a plea agreement.
Then in 2008, a multi-agency investigation determined Shields was letting marijuana traffickers in Canada transport pot to his property, where it was then taken to Spokane and stored for distribution by U.S. drug traffickers.
Shields pleaded guilty in May to money laundering, structuring financial transactions to avoid reporting requirements, conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana (dating back to 2003) and three counts of failure to file income tax returns.
He was sentenced Thursday in Spokane by U.S. District Judge Rosanna Peterson to 30 months in prison followed by five years of probation. The court is recommending he be housed at the federal prison in Sheridan, Ore., to allow his wife, whom Finer described as “aged and unwell,” to visit.
Finer said a short incarceration period “will promote respect for the law and provide general deterrence to others who, like Mr. Shields, may find criminal opportunity in owning property alongside the border with Canada.”
A convicted killer who left prison in 2008 is headed back there after a jury in southwest Idaho convicted him of assaulting a family member with a large knife.
Donald Leonard Houser, 39, was living in Plummer in 1995 when he shot his former girlfriend, Angela LeSarte, to death in front of Bobbie's Bar in Plummer.
LeSarte's father is former longtime Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman Bernard LeSarte. She was the mother of four children.
Houser was sentenced to 15 years in prison in February 1996 for second-degree murder and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence. He began his five-year probation period on Oct. 30, 2008, and worked part-time on a ranch in Washington County and at a hardware store in Weiser, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He started working full-time as a self-employed mechanic in November 2010.
Houser was arrested on Aug. 22 for aggravated assault. He was sentenced in April to two to three years in state prison. He was sentenced today to two years in federal prison for violating his probation on the murder conviction. One year of his federal sentence will run concurrent to the state sentence, the other will run consecutive, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
New documents released Thursday show that the only person who raised issues about juror misconduct in the trial that convicted former Spokane Police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. was an alternate juror who was not privy to the final deliberations.
U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle called for the secret hearings in May after attorneys learned that the alternate juror told a court security officer that jurors improperly discussed the case prior to deliberations that resulted in the Nov. 2 conviction.
“I thought the government put up a terrible case. Horrible,” said the alternate juror, whose name was redacted. “I thought they got it wrong.”
The forewoman of the jury that convicted former Spokane Police officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. of excessive force said in a letter to a federal judge that defense attorneys have twisted her words in their effort to force a new trial for the decorated officer.
The documents are contained in files previously sealed by U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle.
A Whitman County man who bragged about being involved with racist taco-truck protests in Kootenai County has been sentenced to seven years in federal prison for unlawful gun possession.
Jeremiah Daniel “J.D.” Hop's lawyer, Roger Peven, asked for him to receive between 15 and 21 months in prison, according to court documents, but U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley rejected that request on Wednesday.
Hop, 31, is to be on probation for three years after his release.
Hop was arrested during an FBI investigation April 20, 2011, for allegedly possessing an Izhmash 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun on March 25.
His brother, Michael Hop, said he was set up by an FBI informant who supplied the shotgun after suggesting they go shooting.
Federal agents searched his home in Pullman on April 20 and seized that shotgun, then searched a property in Colton and seized four rifles, a shotgun and more than 150 rounds of ammunition.
Authorities say Hop had talked of targeting abortion clinics.
Hop was convicted in California of third-degree rape of a child in 2005, a felony that prohibits him from possessing firearms or ammunition. The conviction stemmed from a consensual relationship with a girl who was 14 when she first met Hop. She wrote a letter that urged Whaley to keep him out of jail.
“I strongly believe he is NOT a danger to society,” the woman, now 23, wrote. “At the time I was being physically and mentally abused, he was my lifesaver.”
Other friends and family wrote letters supporting Hop, including the mother of his 6-year-old son.
A Spokane methamphetamine dealer ordered to spend 15 years in federal prison is trying to get his sentence overturned, in part because it was investigated by a now-fired Spokane police officer.
David Brian Hill’s request is the latest twist in an investigation into potentially questionable partnerships between Spokane County law enforcement officers and local bail bondsmen and bounty hunters.
The investigation restarted earlier this year, and two Washington State Patrol employees, Dave Bolton and Jeff Thoet, spent six weeks on paid leave amid possible criminal allegations. The two returned to work late last month, but the investigation into their work with unlicensed bounty hunter Dennis Kariores is ongoing.
Gypsy Lawson stands on her porch and talks in March 2008 about her federal indictment after authorities accused her of smuggling a rhesus macacque into the U.S. following a trip to Asia. (SRphoto/Jesse Tinsley)
A woman who smuggled a monkey from Thailand to Spokane in 2007 died when her pickup truck went off the road four miles south of Northport, authorities said Wednesday.
Gypsy R. Lawson, 31, of Northport, was driving south on state Route 25 possibly around midnight, when her 1986 Nissan pickup went off the road to the right in a left-hand curve, the Washington State Patrol reported.
Lawson and her mother were convicted by a federal jury in December 2008 of smuggling an exotic monkey into the United States.
A Canadian man suspected of sending United States defense materials to China is in jail in Spokane.
Kevin Zhang, alias Zhao Wei Zhang, 41, was arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol near Metaline Falls on Monday. He’d been wanted since January 2011 on a sealed warrant in federal court in San Diego that accuses him of conspiring to send devices used in tactical missiles and drones to the Chinese.
The charge of conspiracy to export defense articles without a license accuses Zhang, who is a naturalized Canadian citizen living in Calgary, of finding U.S. citizens to legally purchase gyroscopes and send them to China or send them to Canada, where they would then be shipped to China. Zhang has family in China, according to court documents.
Gyroscopes are classified defense materials, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of State. Though available for purchase in the U.S., shipping the material abroad requires a license. U.S. policy prohibits exports of such materials to China.
Investigators say Zhang contacted a man in San Diego on April 6, 2010, and discussed purchasing Gyroscopes “at a premium price for the purpose of circumventing United States export laws and illegally shipping the Gyroscopes to China,” according to court documents.
Zhang also emailed an unnamed co-conspirator and client in China the next day and instructed him to find an export/import agent who does not “play by the rules” to help them get the Gyroscopes into China, the indictment alleges.
Zhang sent another email to the man in San Diego on May 25, 2010, suggesting that he find someone to smuggle the Gyroscopes on an airliner. An agreement was finalized on Oct. 1, 2010, for Zhang to ship three Gyroscopes to China in exchange for $21,000, according to the indictment.
A federal grand jury in Southern California indicted Zhang on Jan. 14, 2011.
He was booked into jail Tuesday about 8:20 p.m. and ordered to stay there to await transportation to California after he appeared Tuesday before U.S. District Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno.
Court documents say Zhang faces a maximum of 5 years in prison if convicted.
A Wenatchee man who sexually abused a 6-year-old girl and broadcasted it live on the Internet has been sentenced in Spokane to 15 years in federal prison.
Scott J. Martin, 49, abused the girl at the direction of Christian Webb, a former Minot, North Dakota, school district employee who used a school-assigned Internet connection to help facilitate the crimes. Webb was sentenced in May 2011 to 12 years in prison.
News reports say he regularly contacted pedophiles through Internet chat and persuaded them to sexually abuse children while he watched through a web cam. Webb had 75 webcam videos depicting the live sexual abuse of children when he was arrested.
His case led to the arrest of six people, including Martin, in Washington, Kansas, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas, as well as the rescue of eight children from abuse, according to the Minot Daily News.
Martin's lawyer described him as a man with cerebral palsy who is easily influenced by others. He met his wife through a 1-900 number.
“His repeated contact with her through that phone number ultimately led to the development of their relationship and their marriage. Discovery indicates that the computer and the internet were significant parts of both of their lives,” Martin's lawyer wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Based on his deference to others, and the prevalence of the computer and use thereof in the home, Mr. Martin more easily succumbed to Mr. Webb’s requests than might otherwise have been the case.”
Martin was sentenced last week in U.S. District Court last week after pleading guilty to production of child pornography/use of a child to transmit live images of abuse. He'll be on probation for 15 years after his release.
A federal jury convicted a Spokane man of 20 felonies Thursday for a scheme that cost a Coeur d'Alene woman her high-end riverside home.
Samuel Thomas Geren Jones, 31, faces up to 20 years in prison for each of 19 wire fraud counts when he's sentenced Oct. 5, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He's allowed to stay out of jail until sentencing.
Jones was convicted of the wire fraud and one count of interstate transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises after a seven-day trial in U.S. District Court.
Jones' co-defendant, Travis “T.J.” Sneed, a former Washington legislative candidate and aide to Jim West, was sentenced last August to about five years in prison.
Sneed, (pictured) who had solicited fraudulent letters of support to present at his sentencing, also is to be on probation for three years, perform 320 hours of community service and pay about $732,000 in restitution. That’s the amount of money loaned to Sneed using victim Dawn Forest’s home as collateral.
“I’ll never see any of it,” Forest said at Sneed's sentencing.
Sneed, 29, is serving his 63-month sentence at a federal prison in Colordao. He testified at Jones' trial.
The scheme developed when Forest allowed Sneed and Jones, who were in a romantic relationship, to live in the basement of her home on South Canal Street along the Spokane River and take out a loan on her mortgage. Forest said she learned her home was being foreclosed by reading the newspaper. Sneed and Jones also bilked three people of about $165,000 by selling them products via the Internet that they never received.
Jones and Sneed were indicted in July 2010.
“This jury's verdict sends the strong message that those who bilk trusting investors will be caught and punished,” Wendy Olson, U.S. Attorney for Idaho, said in a prepared statement. “In these difficult economic times, fraud schemes pose an even greater threat to our communities. I commend the hard and thorough work of FBI Special Agent Bryant Gunnerson, prosecutor Nancy Cook and the many others who brought these two men to justice.”
A Spokane man accused of murdering a gang rival 2 1/2 years ago has admitted to unlawfully possessing the murder weapon.
Edward Lee “TD” Thomas, 26, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to felon in possession of a firearm, halting a scheduled trial.
Thomas, who has felony convictions that prohibit him from possessing firearms, faces up to 10 years in prison when he sentenced, which is scheduled for Oct. 11. The charge stems from a Ruger mini 30 rifle found in a Nissan Altima rental car near the body of John S. Williams, 38, who was shot to death on Jan. 17, 2010, outside a party at 5405 N. Crestline St.
The gun had Thomas' fingerprints on it. He was arrested in Los Angeles in September 2010 on a second-degree murder charge and is in Spokane County Jail awaiting trial. Spokane County prosecutors dismissed the murder charge but are expected to refile when the federal gun charge is resolved.
Federal prosecutors had asked a judge to allow jurors in Thomas' gun trial to know about his gang membership and the gun's link to the murder. Thomas' lawyer objected.