August 24, 2012 in City

Caretaker pleads not guilty to charges

Friedlund allegedly stole from Kettle Falls woman
By The Spokesman-Review
 

A man accused of pilfering hundreds of thousands of dollars from the 105-year-old woman he was supposed to be caring for has pleaded not guilty to federal charges.

John “Herb” Friedlund, 78, worried in federal court Thursday about getting his medications while in jail, the same concern that led a Stevens County sheriff’s detective to the discovery of 105-year-old Frances Swan in a squalid back bedroom of her Kettle Falls, Wash., home in June 2011.

The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office had responded to reports of emaciated horses at the home. While Friedlund was being taken into custody on five counts of animal cruelty, he asked to get his medications. Upon re-entering the home, a detective discovered Swan, who told him, “Please feed me.”

It was a discovery that led authorities down an investigative rabbit hole that resulted in state, federal and civil cases. Friedlund was indicted Monday and pleaded not guilty in federal court Thursday on 11 counts of money laundering and five counts of failing to file income taxes on money he drew from Swan’s accounts.

Investigators allege he drained Swan’s retirement account and wired large sums to men around the world he met on the pornographic website gaysugardaddy.com. He was taken into custody after the hearing, awaiting a bail hearing set for Monday.

If convicted, Friedlund faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each count of money laundering. He could also face forfeiture of his property, including tractors, snowmobiles, horse trailers and hundreds of guns.

Stevens County Deputy Prosecutor Lech Radzimski said the federal case may complicate efforts to prosecute him on theft charges in state court.

If he is held on bail, “We won’t be able to do anything with his case until the feds finish with him,” Radzimski said.

A Seattle-based civil attorney representing Swan reached an out-of-court settlement in May with Edward Jones for its disbursements of more than $900,000 from Swan’s retirement funds to Friedlund, as well as the state, for its failure to act on several complaints about Swan’s living conditions.

However, most of the money that Friedlund wired his acquaintances likely cannot be recovered.

A lien was placed on land that originally belonged to Swan and sold to Rich Jessen, a special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, for $33,610 – after Jessen bailed Friedlund out of the Stevens County Jail. A family member said that property had been appraised at more than $200,000.

Friedlund is also accused of witness tampering for allegedly telling a witness to say Swan gave Friedlund permission to send the witness money totaling about $225,000. A Stevens County investigation found most of that correspondence occurred in Spokane County, so he was charged in Spokane County District Court.

Friedlund has maintained throughout the investigations he had Swan’s permission to take the money.


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