Informant in Steele case pleads guilty to weapons charges
An informant in a federal murder-for-hire case who planted a pipe bomb under the intended victim’s car pleaded guilty to two federal weapons charges Thursday in Coeur d’Alene.
Larry A. Fairfax, 49, faces a maximum 10 years in prison but federal sentencing guidelines show he could receive as little as 18 months. He’s to be sentenced Dec. 16.
Fairfax, of Sagle, Idaho, has been in custody since June 15, the day employees at a Coeur d’Alene auto shop found a pipe bomb beneath a car belonging to Cyndi Steele, wife of former Aryan Nations lawyer Edgar Steele. Cyndi Steele took the car in for an oil change before her husband’s first court appearance on charges that he hired Fairfax to kill her and her mother.
Cyndi Steele criticized Fairfax’s plea deal before U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill Thursday, saying he should be charged with attempted murder.
“How can Mr. Fairfax be trusted when he has proven to all of us that he is a liar?” she said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said she believes Cyndi Steele is being manipulated to bolster her husband’s defense.
“At the heart of all of this is the complete rejection that Mr. Steele had anything to do with planning to kill her,” Whelan said. “I cannot say Mr. Steele was not involved and this was all Larry Fairfax, because that’s not what the evidence shows.”
The case began June 9 when Fairfax told the FBI Steele hired him to kill his wife and mother-in-law. Fairfax said he was paid $10,000 in silver coins, received $400 for travel expenses to Oregon, where Steele’s mother-in-law lives, and was to receive $25,000 for the murders, then $100,000 if an auto insurance claim paid off.
The FBI monitored two meetings between Fairfax and Steele, then raided Steele’s home on Talache Road, about 10 miles southeast of Sandpoint, on June 11. Steele has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that could put him in prison for at least 30 years.
Fairfax pleaded guilty to possession of an unregistered firearm and to making a firearm in violation of the National Firearms Act.
Fairfax also has agreed to repay the $10,000 murder plot payment, Whelan said.
Fairfax was not facing a criminal investigation until the pipe bomb was discovered. He told investigators June 15 that he rigged the bomb so it wouldn’t explode.
Cyndi Steele said Thursday that Fairfax stole coins from her family and planned to murder her to cover it up. She has also suggested the government manufactured tape recordings of her husband discussing the murder plot with Fairfax.
Edgar Steele, being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail, appeared in court after Fairfax’s plea hearing as his wife’s attorney asked Winmill to lift the no contact order between the couple.
Winmill did not immediately make a decision. Lawyers have until Wednesday to file briefs on the matter.