A Spokane shoe store owner who bilked 50 investors out of close to $1.5 million after promising to build an ethanol plant that never materialized pleaded guilty to seven counts of wire fraud on Monday.
A grand jury indicted Robert J. Braun in May 2013, alleging he’d taken dozens of people for sums up to $10,000 and sent them “lulling emails” promising an ethanol plant first in Medical Lake and then in Airway Heights with returns up to 700 percent. Instead, Braun spent $40,000 on groceries, $30,000 at restaurants and $80,000 to run a women’s shoe store he owned in Spokane, according to court documents.
Braun must repay $1.5 million. He could face about five years in prison.
Man jailed after firing gun
A 43-year-old man made a court appearance on his birthday Monday after firing a gun into the air during a weekend confrontation over reckless driving through a north Spokane neighborhood.
Witnesses say Gene Sturgeon fired the gun as three men reported his street-racing to a landlord Saturday evening. One of the men pulled a combat knife from his waistband after Sturgeon lowered a gun and pointed it at him, the man told police.
The man went to confront Sturgeon, who investigators said has a history of reckless driving, after his mother tried to talk to Sturgeon about street-racing in his Ford pickup earlier in the day, according to court documents. When Sturgeon refused to come to the door, they walked across the street to the landlord’s and Sturgeon came outside with the weapon. After firing two shots into the air, Sturgeon walked back into his house in the 4200 block of West Rowan Avenue with a gun.
Police arrested Sturgeon, who has no felony criminal history, on suspicion of assault as he drove away.
He told police he fired only after the other man pulled the knife on another man during the argument.
School bus driver arrested
A Davenport School District bus driver has been arrested on suspicion of sex crimes against a child while not on duty, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said.
The Sheriff’s Office received a complaint last week against Daniel R. Abell, 54, said Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers.
Abell was in his second year as a bus driver with the district, Davenport School District Superintendent Jim Kowalkowski said. Abell is in jail and will be placed on administrative leave if he bonds out, Kowalkowski said.
No complaints have been received from students who ride buses, Kowalkowski said. Davenport bus routes serve students from kindergarten through 12th grade, he said.
Magers said there was no evidence to indicate the alleged crimes took place during Abell’s official school duties.
Abell is scheduled to make a preliminary court appearance today, Magers said. His bond has been set at $75,000.