The man charged with mistreating and stealing retirement funds from a 106-year-old Kettle Falls woman was arrested today and charged with witness tampering.
John H. “Herb” Friedlund, 78, was arrested early this morning at a residence in Deer Park.
Stevens County prosecutors said that Friedlund contacted a witness in the theft case, Steven Smith of Anna, Texas, and told Smith to say that 106-year-old Frances T. Swan authorized previous money transfers from Friedlund to Smith that totaled about $225,000.
Friedlund “was trying to influence (Smith’s) testimony, telling him what to say,” Deputy Prosecutor Lech Radzimski said.
Stevens County sheriff’s detectives investigated the case and arrested Friedlund. However, the investigation revealed that most of the correspondence between Friedlund and Smith occurred in Spokane County. Friedlund is scheduled to appear at 2 p.m. Thursday in Spokane County District Court.
Investigators for weeks had been trying to locate Smith, who was identified in bank transactions. Smith just recently contacted prosecutors, Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen said.
Smith “said he got acquainted with Herb through a contact website that allows young struggling persons to get in touch with older men,” he said.
Seattle attorney Timothy Tesh, who is representing Swan’s family in a civil action to recoup her retirement funds, said he learned that Friedlund told Smith to tell investigators that Swan took part in their online correspondence.
Friedlund “asked Mr. Smith to confirm that Frances Swan may have appeared on some sort of webcam with Mr. Friedlund. And, some of the payments may have been compensation for some online chat,” Tesh said. “If that’s true … it is an outrageous case of witness tampering, to say the least.”
Smith told prosecutors that Friedlund sent him several wire transfers involving substantial sums of money. Bank statements suggest that Friedlund also paid for Smith’s heart surgery and for attorney bills for some matter in Texas, Radzimski said.
The case began in late May when Stevens County detectives went to Swan’s Kettle Falls home to arrest Friedlund on five counts of animal cruelty. Before they drove him away, Friedlund asked to return to the home to retrieve his medicine.
It was then that Detective James Caruso asked Friedlund about Swan. Caruso searched the home, which was littered with dog feces, guns and rotting food. In the back bedroom, he discovered Swan, who immediately said, “Please feed me. I haven’t eaten since yesterday.”
Swan now lives in a Colville nursing home, where she remains in good health, Tesh said.
The investigation has revealed that more than $800,000 is missing from Swan’s retirement accounts; Friedlund was charged Aug. 2 with several counts of theft as a result of that probe.
Tesh also said that Carl “Rich” Jessen, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who paid Friedlund’s bail and gave him a temporary place to stay, has hired prominent defense attorney Carl Oreskovich to represent him for an upcoming deposition.
Jessen earlier told The Spokesman-Review that he befriended Friedlund in 2006 and agreed to bail him out of jail and provide a place to stay because Friedlund had become homeless by court order and had failing health.
Some nine days after bonding Friedlund out of jail, Jessen bought 134 acres fronting the Kettle River from Friedlund for $33,610, which Tesh said was far below market value.