Posts tagged: U.S. District Court
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.
A Las Vegas woman and her father are accused of helping distribute large amounts of OxyContin that included sales tracked in Eastern Washington.
Tiffany Diane Frehner, 31, and John Lawrence Frehner, 57, are charged in connection with a federal complaint filed in January against Frehner's boyfriend, Robert John Beron.
Beron, owner of a company called Lexxxy Nite Productions, is accused of selling OxyContin to Mitchell Hargan, Marisol Hernandez, Jaime McGahuey and Kim Chavez of Wenatchee.
Beron, who traveled to Washington regularly, told a confidential informant he was still able to get the old OxyContin pills distributed before Purdue Pharma changed the formula to make them harder to abuse, which gave him huge profits, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane.
He also arranged to sell the informant 400 80-mg pills for $6,000, charges allege. Beron told the informant he had a customer in Wenatchee who bought $100,000 worth of OxyContin a month.
Beron was arrested at his home in Salinas, Calif., on Jan. 12. Police found a 9 mm handgun and 530 methadone pills.
Beron was out of jail awaiting trial and wearing an electronic monitor, but he was arrested on a warrant July 18 in San Jose.
Frehner was arrested July 19 in Las Vegas.
She and her father each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
A convicted mail thief wanted for violating his probation shot a round from a firearm after being shocked with a stun gun today northwest of Airway Heights, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
No one was injured and Tony L. Gust, 33, was arrested without further incident, authorities say.
Marshals were looking for Gust after a warrant was issued today in U.S. District Court. They found him at his home in the 22000 block of West Jacobs Road about 4:20 p.m. and watched as he ran into his trailer and “armed himself with a firearm,” according to a news release.
“Deputies deployed a taser striking Gust. Subsequently a round was fired from the weapon Gust was holding,” the news release said. “The Deputy U.S. Marshals then subdued Gust and took him into custody.”
Gust was arrested in January 2011 after a postal inspector recognized him from surveillance video that showed him breaking into post office boxes at the Opportunity post office, 11712 E. Sprague Ave.
He was sentenced in June to three years of probation, but that was revoked in October and he was sent to jail for six months. He left in April and was to participate in a treatment program.
Authorities noted his “troubling history of violence and offenses involving firearms,” in court documents filed in May 2011, which his lawyer attributed to Gust's “physical, mental and dependency problems” and said treatment would serve well.
Gust has previously been employed as a welder and a cook, according to court documents. In 2003, he was arrested for illegally shooting on a property in Liberty Lake, according to news archives.
A man shot in what police believe was a drug-related incident on Spokane's South Hill in April was arrested today at the Coeur d'Alene Casino for a brutal assault in Adams County.
Arthur Frank Cardenas, 33, has been wanted since July 11 on a $500,000 warrant for charges of first-degree robbery and first-degree assault.
A casino security officer saw him today about 5 a.m. and requested assistance from tribal police as surveillance employees watched Cardenas walk back to his room through the cameras.
U.S. Marshals arrived to help arrest Cardenas, who has been described as a gang leader. He was taken into custody about 9 a.m.Police found drugs and weapons in his room and arrested four other people. Their names have not been released.
“This arrest is the result of great work by one of our very own tribal police officers and a collaborative effort with the U.S. Marshals to bring Cardenas in. I’m very proud of our guys and appreciative to the U.S. Marshals for their cooperation,” Coeur d’Alene Tribe Police Chief Cody SiJohn said in a prepared statement.
Cardena's friend Alicia Maria Favro was indicted just two weeks ago on a felon in possession of a firearm charge in U.S. District Court in Spokane.
Favro, 42, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of possessing a chrome Walther semi-automatic .380 caliber handgun that was found in her purse when she tried to go through security at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in April. She's in custody at the Spokane County Jail.
Cardenas' gunshot wound back in April was not life threatening. A medic who treated him was severely burned by a chemical substance while treating Cardenas. Police didn't find toxic substances in Cardenas' car, but they did find large amounts of cash and methamphetamine.
Favro told police she went to Northern Quest Casino with Cardenas after he won $3,000 gambling in Moses Lake, according to court documents.
A woman who shot a man three times after he accidentally hit her with a half-pint bottle has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
Leona Sutton, 34, is a methamphetamine addict who federal prosecutors say is very dangerous.
“Defendant's livelihood has been a criminal one. Daily use of methamphetamine and distributing it to feed the habit,” according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by the U.S. Attorney's Office. “The public is not safe when she consumes alcohol or methamphetamine. It also is not safe when she has access to a firearm.”
Sutton shot the man, with whom she frequently used meth, on Oct. 2 with a .22 caliber rifle in Keller, Wash., on the Colville Indian Reservation.
Family told the FBI she had a history of violence and frequently tried to coerce her ex-boyfriend into assaulting people” and “routinely told him that she wanted “to kick someone's ass,” prosecutors wrote.
U.S. District Judge Frem Nielsen on Thursday sentenced Sutton to 120 months and 1 day in prison for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence and assault with a dangerous weapon, followed by three years of probation. She also is to pay $5,796.24 restitution. Nielsen recommended she undergo treatment for drug addiction while in prison.
Mike Ormsby, U.S. Attorney in Eastern Washington, praised the sentence in a prepared statement.
“Crimes of violence will not be tolerated in the Eastern District of Washington, particularly those crimes occurring on Tribal lands,” Ormsby said. “The Sutton case is yet another example of the United States Attorney's Office’s commitment to prosecute vigorously violent crimes.”
A member of a Spokane family that claims police target them because of their relation to a notorious double murderer is heading to federal prison, and his lawyer says his parents' “victim mentality” is partially to blame.
Jayce Leon Elton Pirtle, Jr., 24, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Pirtle is the nephew of Blake Pirtle, who murdered two Burger King employees in Spokane Valley in 1992. Blake Pirtle's death sentence was overturned after a judge ruled law enforcement violated his civil rights during his arrest.
The Pirtles said in 2009 that police unfairly target them because of that case. They vowed to move out of Spokane. Spokane police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer DeRuwe says the family has a “propensity for crime” that earns law enforcement attention.
Pirtle's lawyer, Roger Peven, said Pirtle's parents' insistence that they have been unfairly targeted has not helped their son.
“The combination of parental neglect, abuse, enabling and perpetuating a victim mentality clearly has been devastating to this twenty-four-year-old's development,” Peven wrote.
Pirtle, a father with a girlfriend of seven years, had a troubled childhood that included reporting to authorities his father nearly killing his mother when he was just nine-years-old, according to a sentencing memorandum prepared by his lawyer, Roger Peven.
Pirtle's father went to prison, but, Peven wrote, it's clear “that the abuse and neglect continued throughout Mr. Pirtle's youth.” Pirtle later hid stolen property and a firearm with his father in 2005, Peven wrote.
“The public is better served by addressing the neglect and violence that this young man was subjected to so that Mr. Pirtle has a better chance of being a better parent and functioning member of society,” Peven wrote. “It is clear that Mr. Pirtle is in need of some counseling or treatment to address the family issues he has encountered over the course of his life in order to get a grip on himself, be a functioning member of society, and be a parent to his children.”
Pirtle was indicted in November for a handgun, two rifles and 175 rounds of ammunition found in his apartment at 1808 E. Pacific Ave. on July 8, 2011.
The guns were stolen in a burglary.
Pirtle was arrested the day of the search on a second-degree assault charge for an alleged baseball bat beating that left a man with a permanent lip disfigurement in May 2011. He still is charged with second-degree assault in Spokane County Superior Court. He has previous convictions for second-degree assault and second-degree kidnapping.
Federal prosecutors want jurors in an upcoming gun trial to know about the suspect's gang membership and the gun's link to a 2010 murder in northeast Spokane.
Edward Lee “TD” Thomas, 26, is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm for 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. Cresline 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 will refile once Thomas' federal gun charge is resolved.
Trial on the gun charge is set to begin July 23 in U.S. District Court in downtown Spokane.
The U.S. Attorney's Office has filed a motion asking that jurors be allowed to hear testimony about the shooting. Thomas' lawyer, Bryan Whitaker, has objected and points to the fact that Thomas hasn't even been convicted of murder.
“The logic here is flawless: since John Williams was shot with a firearm, Mr. Thomas could only have shot him while in possession of a firearm,” Whitaker wrote in a response to the motion. “The fallacy of this logic is that it relies completely on Mr. Thomas being the person who shot John Williams. The jury, therefore, would be invited to convict Mr. Thomas of Felon in Possession of Firearm because the Government believes he shot John Williams.”
Thomas is accused of shooting Williams multiple times, including a final shot to his face. Police and prosecutors say the shooting stemmed from a gang rivalry, and prosecutors want to experts to tell jurors about Thomas' ties to the Atlantic Drive Compton Crips.
Police say Thomas acquired the firearm after a dispute with Jerome Danner, a member of the Grape Street Crips. The groups were at a birthday party for Ronald L. “Heavy” Shuler when a fight broke out. Williams, who was linked to Danner, punched out a window to a car in which Thomas was before he was shot by Thomas, police say.
But Whitaker said the relationship between Thomas and Danner was not based on gang member but on the fact that they each have a child with the same woman.
“The acrimonious relationship between gangs has no bearing on issues in this case. The theory here is that gang membership is the motive for possessing a firearm. That logic would permit the admission of gang-related testimony in EVERY case involving a gang member,” Whitaker wrote.
U.S. District Court Judge Fred Van Sickle has not yet ruled on the motions.
Six other men were charged in connection with the homicide, including Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton, who was sentenced to five years in prison for driving Thomas from the murder. Police say Thomas went to Antonio Cook's house after the shooting and stayed there until the next day. Cook, who reportedly supplied the murder weapon, also has been charged.
Federal prosecutors appear to be growing frustrated with the ongoing delays that have kept convicted Spokane police Officer Karl F. Thompson Jr. out of prison.
Eight months have passed since a jury convicted Thompson of using excessive force and lying to investigators in the 2006 fatal confrontation with Otto Zehm, an unarmed janitor erroneously implicated in a possible theft. But court-ordered delays have postponed sentencing indefinitely as he seeks a new trial.