A Spokane businessman facing more than three years in prison after pleading guilty to a wire fraud charge in the theft of an Oregon widow’s lottery winnings is now seeking to back out of the agreement.
Scott K. Brett, 56, has been appointed a new attorney in the case, which was scheduled for sentencing in April in a Richland courtroom.
Days before he faced a prison term of at least 3 1/2 years and up to five years, Brett filed motions for a new attorney and to vacate his plea, arguing his previous defender, attorney Roger Peven, did not seek out a forensic investigator, nor did he adequately interview a Utah accountant or a short-term investor who had knowledge of how the missing $1 million was spent.
Brett was also confused about his legal options at the time of the plea, he now argues.
“Mr. Brett explained that he felt responsible for losing money, but he never intended to defraud or mislead anyone,” wrote Scott W. Johnson, Brett’s new attorney, in the request to rescind the guilty plea.
The widow, identified in court documents only by her initials, won $18.2 million playing the Oregon lottery with her husband in 2003. He died in 2008, and in 2011 the woman met Brett through her son and agreed to give him $1 million to invest, promising her he could quadruple her money in two months, according to a grand jury indictment handed down in January 2016.
Those gains never materialized.
Brett has returned roughly $145,000 of the original investment in the years that followed, according to prosecutors, leaving $855,000 unaccounted for. Brett now contends, in court documents, that the accountant and investor, who have not been charged in the case, both have knowledge of the money’s whereabouts that could clear him of wrongdoing.
Prosecutors argue that none of Brett’s arguments is sufficient to withdraw the plea. U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza has set a hearing June 29 in Richland.
Johnson could not be reached for comment on the case Friday. Reached by phone, Peven declined to comment on Brett’s case, saying he no longer represented Brett and citing the ongoing legal proceedings.
Brett had racked up significant debts in Spokane in the years before agreeing to invest the widow’s cash, according to public records and news reports out of Lebanon, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville where Brett’s company, CoreTech Industries, had proposed to build a “green technology research and development business park” before the deal fell through in 2010.
Brett is not in custody, nor has he been since his initial arraignment in February 2016.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter