Drug ‘taxer’ testifies against co-defendants
A drug user worked off his debts for methamphetamine and cocaine by becoming a bill collector and enforcer for a Spokane dope ring, a federal judge was told Monday.
Jack Thomas Lamere testified he committed assaults, head shavings and other “taxings” throughout the Spokane area last year.
“I’d grab cars, trucks, computers, stereos - anything of value, even CB radios” from people to settle drug debts, Lamere said.
The 29-year-old man offered a rare glimpse of crimes that often go unreported because the victims don’t want police to know they’re using drugs.
Lamere testified on the third day of a sentencing hearing where U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley is attempting to determine the amount of drugs distributed by drug ring members.
The judge also must decide who was the chief organizer of the ring before handing down prison sentences to seven people who have pleaded guilty to numerous drug charges.
In a surprise twist, Lamere suddenly took the witness stand Monday and leveled accusations at co-defendants Richard “Butch” Forrest II, and his sister, Monica F. Forrest.
In court papers, they say Lamere was the leader of the meth ring that investigators describe as one of the biggest ever busted in Spokane.
But Lamere said the Forrests ran the operation, eventually ordering him to be their bill collector. They even gave him guns for the job, he testified.
Lamere said he was testifying “only to set the record straight,” despite death threats from outlaw motorcycle gangs.
“I’ve been told by Butch Forrest that the Hells Angels are going to kill me, that the Gypsy Jokers are going to tear me to pieces,” Lamere testified.
“I think he hides behind his patch” emblem of the Iron Horsemen, another motorcycle gang, Lamere said as he glared across the courtroom at Richard Forrest.
His attorney, Jeffry Finer, said Forrest also has received threats. Finer introduced a letter containing a poem Forrest received in jail from Lamere. It refers to Forrest as “Vicki” and suggests he get female breasts tattooed on his back for prison life.
“That’s not a fashion statement, is it?” Finer asked Lamere.
Lamere denied writing the poem, but conceded that he and Forrest are longtime rivals.
Most recently, Lamere said he received several letters in jail. One envelope contained a photo of a man holding a dead duck, and Lamere’s name was penciled on the bird.
Lamere said he owed $1,045 for drugs last fall to Monica Forrest and her brother, who told Lamere he was vice president of the Iron Horsemen.
“What made you get into the business of taxing?” Lamere’s attorney, Ed Carroll, asked his client.
“Because I owed them money and, basically, I didn’t have a choice,” Lamere responded.
The witness said Monica and Richard Forrest gave him lists of people who owed more than $87,000 for drugs.
His first job, Lamere said, was to collect a $370 debt from Bart Ottesen, of Spokane.
At Monica Forrest’s direction, Lamere said he abducted Ottesen from a Spokane Valley home and took him to her home in northeast Spokane.
Ottesen testified last week that he was blindfolded, stripped of his clothes, severely beaten, spray-painted, tied up and burned on the testicles with a candle during the beating.
When it was over, Lamere said Richard Forrest told him on the telephone to “do something other than let him go.”
But Lamere said he released Ottesen after he promised to give his 1984 Buick to Monica Forrest the next day.
Lamere said he was present during Ottesen’s assault but didn’t take part in the beating.
On another occasion, he said, the Forrests directed him to collect a drug debt from his former girlfriend, Deborah Longo, 27, now a co-defendant.
“They wanted me to shave her head, but I wasn’t going to do that because of our previous relationship,” Lamere testified.
Longo combed her hand through her long blond hair, intently listening to her former boyfriend’s testimony.
Lamere said he’d tell those owing money for drugs that they’d better not complain or call police because he had backing from the Hells Angels and Iron Horsemen.
“A lot of people gave up their property without any real threats because they owed the money,” he testified.
Despite his enforcer work for the Forrests, Lamere said he could never completely wipe out his drug debt to them.
“I guess that’s part of their game, to keep people in debt,” he testified.
After the testimony, federal marshals separated Lamere for the first time from the other defendants, who have been led in and out of the courtroom together.