March 26, 2011 in City

Two face retaliation charges

Pair accused of threatening informant for DEA
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Three young Spokane men are learning how serious the federal court system can be.

Two friends of a 19-year-old suspected Ecstasy dealer are accused of retaliating against the informant who helped the Drug Enforcement Administration investigate him.

The friends, Jeramy Michael Allen, an 18-year-old high school senior, and Vonne A. Renkert-Schafer, 20, left Spokane County Jail on $25,000 bond Thursday under stringent requirements set by U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno.

“These charges are extremely serious,” she said. “Were it not for the fact that you have strong family support, I would not be reaching the conclusion that I am.

“You only get one chance with me – one chance,” she said.

The men pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a grand jury indictment. Retaliating against an informant carries a maximum 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case began when a confidential informant told the DEA that Patrick Hayes Wellman sold large quantities of Ecstasy and repeatedly said he could get as many pills as he wished.

During a conversation monitored by federal agents, Wellman allegedly boasted to the informant that he’d stolen firearms. When the informant asked what he would do if stopped by police, Wellman responded, “ ‘Well, I’m not going to go down easy. I’m going to shoot it out with the cops,’ ” DEA agent Sam Keiser testified.

That alleged comment led police to initiate a traffic stop March 11 after tailing Wellman as he drove in Spokane. Five police vehicles blocked Wellman’s car, and he was arrested without incident, Keiser said. He had a loaded .44-caliber revolver in the car, Keiser said. The arrest occurred just yards from Glover Middle School and within 1,000 feet of Shadle Park High School, where Wellman was a student, Assistant U.S. Attorney Earl Hicks said.

Renkert-Schafer attended Wellman’s court hearing last week and spoke with him in a phone call recorded by the Spokane County Jail, Hicks said. That night, he and Allen allegedly broke a window on the informant’s vehicle.

Renkert-Schafer also sent the informant a death threat over the Internet, Hicks said.

“The worst thing you can do to the justice system is try to prevent witnesses from testifying,” Hicks said. “To sit in court … then walk out and do that the same night, that is egregious. That is an insult to the system.”

Wellman, who is being held without bail at the Spokane County Jail, also is charged in state court in an alleged burglary spree last year. He was allowed to leave jail on those charges and, prior to the federal case, faced a minimal prison sentence because state sentences are based on criminal history.

Now Wellman could face at least five years in federal prison after a grand jury indicted him on charges of possession with intent to distribute Ecstasy, distribution of Ecstasy in or near a school, and possession of a firearm during a drug-trafficking crime. The last charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Family members of Allen and Renkert-Schafer packed Imbrogno’s courtroom Wednesday for the suspects’ bail hearings.

Bruce Schafer told Imbrogno his son will work for his construction business. “He will be in my presence throughout the workday,” he said.

Family members declined to comment after the hearing.

The men are to live with family and will be on electronic home monitoring.


There are two comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email