Witness contact leads to arrest
Prosecutor: Man told to say victim OK’d transactions
The man charged with mistreating a 106-year-old Kettle Falls woman and draining her retirement account now faces a witness tampering charge.
John H. “Herb” Friedlund, 78, was arrested early Wednesday at a Deer Park home where he has been staying.
Stevens County prosecutors said that Friedlund contacted a witness in the theft case, Steven Smith of Anna, Texas, and told Smith to say that 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. today in Spokane County District Court.
Investigators for weeks had been trying to locate Smith, who was identified in bank transactions. Smith 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,” Rasmussen said.
Seattle attorney Timothy Tesh, who is representing the Swan family in a civil action attempting to recoup her retirement funds, said he has 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 Smiths’ 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’s 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 is living at 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 and Friedlund was charged Aug. 2 with several counts of theft as a result of that probe.
Meanwhile, a Spokane-based ATF agent, Carl “Rich” Jessen, who befriended Friedlund in 2006 and let him stay at his South Spokane home after bailing him out of Stevens County jail, has hired prominent defense attorney Carl Oreskovich to represent him for an upcoming deposition in a civil case being pursued by Swan’s relatives.
Nine days after bailing Friedlund out of jail on criminal mistreatment charges relating to Swan’s living conditions, Jessen bought a 134-acre ranch from Friedlund for $33,610.
Jessen earlier told The Spokesman-Review that he provided Friedlund a place to stay because the man was in failing health and prohibited by court order from returning to Swan’s home, where he’d been living for the past decade. Jessen said that at the time he was unaware that Friedlund also was suspected of raiding Swan’s retirement accounts.