January 8, 2009 in City

Idaho man gets prison for defrauding government

He used fake papers to steal vet benefits
Associated Press
 

BOISE – A witness in a 2005 Idaho murder solicitation case will spend a year and a day in federal prison after being found guilty of defrauding the government of nearly $100,000 in veterans’ benefits.

Elven Joe Swisher, 71, of Cottonwood, Idaho, was convicted last year of wearing unauthorized military medals, presenting false statements and documents to the Department of Veterans Affairs and theft of government funds.

Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sentenced him Monday to the prison term, as well as still-unspecified restitution and three years of supervision.

Swisher was among at least eight people from the Northwest charged in 2007 with faking their military service in conflicts dating to World War II. Federal prosecutors say he falsely posed as a veteran of the Korean War.

In 2005, Swisher was a witness in the federal trial of north-central Idaho businessman David Hinkson, who was accused of plotting to kill a federal judge, prosecutor and tax agent.

Hinkson was convicted of soliciting the murders of U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy D. Cook, and Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Steven M. Hines. All three had been involved in a separate, federal tax case against Hinkson’s water business. None of the officials was harmed.

Swisher sported a replica Purple Heart pin on his lapel while on the witness stand and testified that because of his combat exploits and claims of killing enemy soldiers in battle, Hinkson attempted to hire him.

After Swisher was convicted of fraud in April, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in May ruled that Hinkson deserved a new trial because Swisher forged documents and lied in court about his military background.

Swisher will likely be sent to a federal prison near Portland. Chris Bugbee, Swisher’s attorney in Spokane, said he plans to appeal the case within 10 days.

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