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Three Treasure Valley businesses agree to cease Idaho operations in consumer protection case

Owners of three businesses that duped Idahoans on everything from satellite TV systems to vendor spaces at events to fake college credits have agreed to cease all operations in Idaho, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced today, under agreements with the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division. The three are Geo Marketing, LLC, of Boise; Kasey Thompson, of Boise, and Philip Braun, owner of the bankrupt Caldwell-based Canyon College of Idaho, Inc. Click below for Wasden's full announcement.

Supreme Court decision prompts more restitution from Greg Jeffreys

A recently filed U.S. Supreme Court opinion has federal prosecutors asking for about $2 million more in restitution from jailed Spokane developer Greg Jeffreys, who pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud in a series of real estate schemes.

Sentencing documents filed ahead of a scheduled hearing in June had originally asked Jeffreys - who admitted in November to duping individual investors and banks on projects including condominiums, units in the downtown Ridpath Tower and a military facility off Highway 2 - to pay back $10.3 million. But a decision rendered in Washington, D.C., earlier this month in the case of a convicted mortgage fraudster out of Wisconsin prompted prosecutors to revise that amount closer to $12 million.

The unanimous decision in Robers v. United States, decided in a lightning-fast (for the court) 10 weeks after oral argument, overturned restitution guidelines set forth by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to prosecutors. While the Wisconsin court ruled Benjamin Robers, a man who bought two houses using fraudulent loan applications, must pay the difference between the amount the bank lent and how much the properties sold for after foreclosure, the Ninth Circuit had calculated restitution based on the value of forfeited properties at the time they were seized. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in February 2013 to settle the dispute in the way the two courts calculated restitution.

The decision affirming the Wisconsin court's practice increases the amount Jeffreys owes banks and investors on three properties that were foreclosed upon, prosecutors say in documents filed last week. This includes units in the downtown Ridpath tower.

Jeffreys' ex-wife, Kimberly Jeffreys, also pleaded guilty in February to a charge of fraud in dealings surrounding the military facility. She is tentatively scheduled to be sentenced in July for her role in the scheme, facing a potential six-month sentence and restitution of close to $160,000.

Shannon Stiltner, a woman who lived with Greg Jeffreys in Las Vegas and pleaded guilty in November to deliberately ignoring signs her boyfriend was swindling investors, is serving her seven-month sentence at a federal detention center in Seattle. Stiltner has been ordered to pay $58,000 in restitution and is scheduled for release in August.

Prosecutors have not filed requests to change Kimberly Jeffreys' or Shannon Stiltner's restitution amounts.

Stiltner receives 7-month sentence

The woman who lived with jailed Spokane developer Greg Jeffreys and was implicated in his schemes to defraud real estate investors was sentenced to seven months in prison last week after pleading guilty to concealing plots through ignorance and conspiracy.

Shannon Stiltner was also ordered to pay more than $58,000 in restitution to two defrauded investors by a federal judge at a sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court on Feb. 10. Jeffreys was originally slated to be sentenced last week as well, but that hearing was stayed as attorneys continue to stipulate the amount the former real estate developer owes, which may total in the millions.

In court documents asking U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson to accept the seven-month sentence, Stiltner said Jeffreys swept her off her feet after a failed marriage, guiding her drug-addicted daughter to sobriety.

“(Jeffreys') actions established a deep and powerful trust between him and Shannon,” Stiltner's attorney, John McEntire, wrote.

That trust kept her from questioning Jeffreys' business deals, even after news reports began to indicate something was wrong, McEntire said.

Stiltner's sentence ends one chapter of a legal saga that has been ongoing since Jeffreys' arrest more than a year ago. Jeffreys' wife, Kimberly, continues her legal fight with a trial tentatively scheduled for April. Greg Jeffreys sentencing, at which dozens of witnesses are expected to testify about his alleged debts, will take place in March.

 

Sentencing delayed for jailed developer Greg Jeffreys

The sentencing of jailed developer Greg Jeffreys, who pleaded guilty to fraud and contempt charges in November, will take a little longer than planned, in part to accommodate the dozens of witnesses the former Ridpath Hotel investor plans to call on his behalf.

A U.S. District Court judge this week delayed a hearing, expected to last at least two days, at which Jeffreys is expected to dispute the amount owed numerous debtors listed in court filings. Scheduled for February, the sentencing and a decision on how much Jeffreys owes in restitution will not come until later in March.

In his request for the continuance, Jeffreys and his attorney cite an extensive witness list - including bankers, assessors and family members - as part of the reason for the needed delay. In total, Jeffreys plans to call more than 30 people to testify about his debts and character. Some of those he plans to call were involved in leasing deals at the Ridpath, Spokane's historic hotel whose revitalization was impeded by Jeffreys' legal woes.

Jeffreys was indicted in January 2013 on multiple federal counts of bank and wire fraud, money laundering and theft tied to real estate dealings and developments that never materialized. Jeffreys and his wife, Kimberly, were implicated in a plot to steal federal government money when constructing a military entrance processing station off Highway 2. Employee Shannon Stiltner, who allegedly shared a casino suite with Jeffreys in Las Vegas, also pleaded guilty in November to concealing knowledge of a Ponzi scheme.

Stiltner's sentencing is still set for February.

 

Idaho inmate fraud artist takes plea deal

Idaho inmate fraud artist Mark Brown pleaded guilty today to two federal counts of mail fraud, avoiding a trial on a 12-count federal indictment and agreeing to forfeit $60,000 in proceeds from his scam. Brown also agreed, as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, to forfeit the cherished electric typewriter he used to pull off the unprecedented financial fraud from his Idaho prison cell, which took in big corporations, courts and attorneys around the nation and got hefty checks sent to him in Idaho over a period of several years.

Senior U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush expressed some puzzlement about Brown’s crimes. “How’d you get involved in all this, Mr. Brown?” he asked him. “Just tell me how it got started.” Brown responded with a nervous chuckle, “Um, the idea just popped in my head.”

Quackenbush, who was the chief judge for the Eastern District of Washington until 1995, when he took senior status, responded, “Well, people in custody ordinarily aren’t filing claims. I’ve handled a lot of class actions in my years on this federal bench … and approved a lot of settlements. … How’d you get started in the filing of false claims?”

Brown, 54, said, “Uh, it was my view that if a claim was filed, even if it was false, there was a small percentage chance that it would be paid.” When the judge pressed him as to how he heard about the big class-action legal settlements and bankruptcy and security settlements in which he filed claims, Brown said, “Well, I read the newspapers and watch TV.”

“What newspapers were you reading – the Wall Street Journal?” the judge asked. “Oh, yes,” Brown replied.

The plea agreement could bring Brown a slightly reduced sentence, though that’s not binding on the court; Quackenbush set his sentencing for Nov. 13. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Idaho Inmate Faces Fraud Charges

It’s clear that Mark Brown is a smart guy, maybe even borderline brilliant. But what’s astounding is the way he apparently pulled off a major, years-long financial fraud, taking in big corporations, courts and attorneys across the nation, all from behind bars in an Idaho prison cell. Brown had no access to the Internet and appears to have had no accomplices or outside help. Instead, investigators believe he used a cherished electric typewriter that he was allowed to keep in his small, spare cell, and legal ads found in national newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, to make fraudulent claims in big class-action lawsuits and bankruptcies. The story is detailed in my two-part series in The Spokesman-Review’s Sunday and Monday editions; you can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.

Question: Can anyone explain why someone this smart wastes his time on con games rather than being a banker or stock broker?

How he did it: Idaho inmate pulls off major financial fraud from behind bars

It’s clear that Mark Brown is a smart guy, maybe even borderline brilliant. But what’s astounding is the way he apparently pulled off a major, years-long financial fraud, taking in big corporations, courts and attorneys across the nation, all from behind bars in an Idaho prison cell.

Brown had no access to the Internet and appears to have had no accomplices or outside help. Instead, investigators believe he used a cherished electric typewriter that he was allowed to keep in his small, spare cell, and legal ads found in national newspapers including the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, to make fraudulent claims in big class-action lawsuits and bankruptcies. The story is detailed in my two-part series in The Spokesman-Review’s Sunday and Monday editions; you can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here

Brown is alleged to have typed up professional-looking legal documents, false letters from law firms and more, and made skillful use of the “legal mail” exception for inmates that allows for correspondence with attorneys and judges without review from prison staff. Big checks poured in – Brown’s take in multiparty lawsuits including a $70 million GlaxoSmithKline drug-pricing settlement and a $20 million IBM shareholders’ settlement. Authorities say Brown collected close to $64,000 through those settlements and deposited the money in his prison trust account, which inmates can use for things like commissary purchases. He then transferred much of it out to an investment account that authorities have targeted for potential forfeiture.

The behind-bars operation caught authorities by surprise. “We screen our mail pretty well, but he also was running a pretty good scam here,” said Cpl. Wesley Heckathorn, a guard at the Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino and former longtime U.S. Navy investigator who helped uncover Brown’s alleged fraud. Brown is now facing a 12-count federal indictment for mail fraud and awaiting a September trial, while authorities at both Idaho’s state prison system and the nation’s largest private prison operator, Corrections Corp. of America, scratch their heads over how he allegedly pulled it off.

Some who know Brown, however, aren’t surprised. “Mark is just so bright,” said Terry Rich, who hired Brown in 1994, when Brown was briefly out on parole, to work at his Boise high-tech firm. “He is so slippery, and he’s so believable, one of the most charming people you’ll meet. … If you let Mark sit around and think too much, this is what happens.” Brown was a promising 23-year-old computer science student at the University of Idaho when he first went to prison with a 20-year sentence for theft; now, he’s 53, still in prison, and never likely to get out.

Minnesota fugitives arrested at Bead Lake cabin

A man wanted on theft charges in Minn. was caught over the weekend by Pend Oreille County authorities after he was found hiding in a cabin near Bead Lake with his girlfriend, according to a Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s news release.

Deputies learned last week Justin L. Feldt, 32, and Jessie A. Pechia, 26, were possibly on their way to Bead Lake, about ten miles north of Newport, Wash. Deputies found an abandoned vehicle that matched his vehicle’s description and began canvassing nearby summer homes.

They also learned a small row boat had been stolen nearby and they believed it was used to visit the other side of the lake only accessible by boat or an ATV, according to the news release.

Deputies borrowed an ATV from Idaho authorities and drove it to the lake cabin where they found Feldt and Pechia. They were arrested on Dec. 15 local burglary, firearm, theft, obstruction charges and the additional out-of-state warrants from Minnesota.

Feldt was originally sought by Minn. authorities for felony charges of check and mail theft and financial fraud. A warrant for his arrest was issued Nov. 21, according to the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office website.

Caldwell optometrist gets three years for Medicaid, Medicare fraud

Here’s a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An optometrist from southwest Idaho convicted for defrauding Medicaid and other health care programs has been sentenced to three years in prison. A federal judge on Tuesday also ordered 60-year-old Christopher Card of Caldwell to pay $1 million in restitution and another $100,000 in fines. Card pleaded guilty in a deal with federal prosecutors in August to defrauding health care programs. He is the former owner and care provider at Total Vision, P.A. The plea agreement says that between 1993 and Aug. 31, 2010, Card gave phony diagnoses of glaucoma, colorblindness or other eye diseases so he could bill and be reimbursed by Medicaid, Medicare and other insurance programs for expensive tests and treatments that he never administered. Federal officials say health care fraud nationally costs taxpayers $78 billion annually.

Convicted conman pleads guilty to fraud

A conman who went to prison for duping people out of $124,000 for a fraudulent cattle farm investment is likely headed back here after pleading guilty to a similar scheme in North Idaho.

James Andrew Harris, 44, pleaded guilty to wire fraud Monday and faces up to 20 years in prison when he's sentenced Nov. 5.

Harris admitted to stealing about $108,000 from a Florida resident whom he'd solicited as an investor in the beef industry.

Harris told the victim he had a “connection” who helped restaurants, supermarkets and other purchasers of beef finance their purchases, according to a news release by the U.S. Attorney's Office. “Harris represented that there was a great deal of money to be made in financing the purchases and encouraged the individual to participate.”

Harris created the email account ibuybeef@yahoo.com to assist in the fraud, which occurred between July 2010 and June 2011.

The fraud began less than three months after Harris was released from federal prison after being sentenced to 27 months for the cattle investment fraud. Harris paid those investors with counterfeit checks, according to a plea agreement.
  

Feds seek Ariz. property in Ridpath probe

Federal investigators are attempting to seize an Arizona property owned by Spokane real estate investors as part of a broader probe into alleged fraud by the couple, who are tangled in the complicated ownership of the former Ridpath Hotel complex.

FBI agent Lisa Jangaard filed a request last week to seize an office building in Sun Lakes, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix. According to court files, Greg Jeffreys and his wife, Kimberly Jeffreys, obtained $600,000 from an investor as partial payment for the purchase of an upscale office building in San Francisco.

Read the rest of Tom Clouse's story here.

N. Idaho check theft suspects arrested

  A 28-year-old man and a 17-year-old runaway linked by police to check thefts in Coeur d'Alene are in custody.

Michael Graham Wilkins and Lacey Lynn Fugate were arrested at the Lake Drive Motel, 316 E. Coeur d'Alene Lake Drive, Friday about 6:30 p.m. after detectives received a tip that they were there, Coeur d'Alene police said today.

Police found property purchased with stolen credit cards and checks in the motel room, including a printer and package of blank checks purchased online.

Officers arrested Wilkins and Fugate on warrants out of Douglas County, Oregon, where Roseburg is.

They face new charges of grand theft and burglary in Kootenai County.

Spokane man convicted of $700k fraud

A federal jury convicted a Spokane man of 20 felonies Thursday for a scheme that cost a Coeur d'Alene woman her high-end riverside home.

Samuel Thomas Geren Jones, 31, faces up to 20 years in prison for each of 19 wire fraud counts when he's sentenced Oct. 5, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He's allowed to stay out of jail until sentencing.

Jones was convicted of the wire fraud and one count of interstate transportation in aid of racketeering enterprises after a seven-day trial in U.S. District Court.

Jones' co-defendant, Travis “T.J.” Sneed, a former Washington legislative candidate and aide to Jim West, was sentenced last August to about five years in prison.

Sneed, (pictured) who had solicited fraudulent letters of support to present at his sentencing, also is to be on probation for three years, perform 320 hours of community service and pay about $732,000 in restitution. That’s the amount of money loaned to Sneed using victim Dawn Forest’s home as collateral.

“I’ll never see any of it,” Forest said at Sneed's sentencing.

Sneed, 29, is serving his 63-month sentence at a federal prison in Colordao. He testified at Jones' trial.

The scheme developed when Forest allowed Sneed and Jones, who were in a romantic relationship, to live in the basement of her home on South Canal Street along the Spokane River and take out a loan on her mortgage. Forest said she learned her home was being foreclosed by reading the newspaper. Sneed and Jones also bilked three people of about $165,000 by selling them products via the Internet that they never received.

Jones and Sneed were indicted in July 2010.

“This jury's verdict sends the strong message that those who bilk trusting investors will be caught and punished,” Wendy Olson, U.S. Attorney for Idaho, said in a prepared statement.  “In these difficult economic times, fraud schemes pose an even greater threat to our communities.  I commend the hard and thorough work of FBI Special Agent Bryant Gunnerson, prosecutor Nancy Cook and the many others who brought these two men to justice.”

Alleged mail thieves jailed without bail

A federal prosecutor said she's “appalled” by the number of people who had their mail stolen in in a suspected regional theft ring and may seek aggravating circumstances against four suspects.

“This is an ongoing, every day thing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Pam Byerly said. “This is their job.”

Dominque M. Ryan, 18; her sister, Candice J. Thompson, 22; and Thompson's boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29,  are in federal custody without bail after their arrests Monday.

U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno denied requests by Ryan and Thompson's lawyers, Bevan Maxey and Jeffry Finer, to be released. Finer has appealed the decision and cites, among other reasons, the fact that the U.S. Probation Office recommended she be released to live with her father in Tacoma.

Ryan's boyfriend, Kyle K. Croson, 21, is at large. Peltier's lawyer, Jaime Hawk, had his bail hearing postponed until Tuesday. Peltier has a misdemeanor warrant in Pierce County.

The suspects face months to a couple of years in prison if convicted of stealing mail, which is a federal offense.

Ryan, who had methamphetamine and marijuana with her when she was arrested, has no criminal history and works at a call center. Thompson has convictions for driving while license suspended and failure to transfer car title.

The women have been deeply affected by the drug overdose death of their mother, according to court testimony. Lawyer Jeffry Finer said he's worried Thompson is “chasing her mom's history.”

Thompson's three-year-old daughter was in their apartment in 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue when law enforcement arrived Monday. The child is now in the custody of Child Protective Services. Finer said it's difficult to discuss that with Thompson. “Whenever we touch on that issue, she breaks down,” Finer told Imbrogno.

Investigators recovered about 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho in the apartment and in two cars Monday.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their daughter to live with Ryan and Croson.

He, Thompson and Ryan cried in court on Thursday.

“I love you, too” Peltier said to Thompson as she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

He then turned to two friends in the audience and, through sobs, denied the allegations.

“It wasn't us,” Peltier said. “It wasn't us.”

Heaps of stolen mail found in Spokane

About 1,000 pieces of mail stolen from hundreds of people in Eastern Washington and North Idaho were recovered in Spokane on Monday.

Police had been investigating the thefts since a woman reported seeing a white car with two men and two women stealing from mailboxes on May 24.

Spokane police Officer Glenn Bartlett reported contacting a suspicious vehicle that was circling a neighborhood on May 26. The occupants he contacted later emerged as suspects in the mail thefts when their names were attached to bank accounts where altered checks had been deposited.

Detectives with the Spokane Financial Crimes Task Force identified the suspect vehicle as a 1997 Dodge Intrepid belonging to Kyle Croson, 21. Police searched Croson's apartment in the 300 block of East Baldwin Avenue on Monday. Candice J. Thompson, 22, and her boyfriend, Eric J. Peltier, Jr., 29, were arrested.

Peltier told police he and Thompson moved to Spokane from Tacoma about two months ago with their three-year-old daughter to live with Thompson's sister, Dominque Ryan. Ryan is Croson's girlfriend.

Peltier said they started “mailboxing” about two weeks after arriving in Spokane. He said Croson and Ryan frequently “mailbox” but that he and Thompson hadn't done so recently because they were out of money for fuel. Investigators searched the apartment as well as the Dodge Intrepid and a Chevy Malibu, where they recovered the stolen mail.

Thomspon said they stole mail “hoping to find cash inside of graduation cards,” according to court documents.

Croson, Thompson, Peltier and Ryan are charged in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Duo arrested for mall-related crimes

A woman and man arrested at the Spokane Valley Mall with stolen credit cards led to an investigation into a series of property crimes.

Tabitha Dawn Creel, 30, and John Andrew Howard, 29, are accused of buying gift cards with stolen credit cards, then trying to return the gift cards for cash.

Howard and Creel was arrested at the mall May 30 after allegedly trying to use a stolen credit card. Creel told deputies she's a heroin addict, and police found heroin in her purse as well as a digital scale.

She said she often pawned stolen items for Howard that included guitars, laptops and an air compressor.

The Spokane County Sheriff's Office burglary task force completed an investigation into the duo Tuesday that calls for them to be charged with 26 felonies, including vehicle prowling, possession of stolen property, money laundering, trafficking in stolen property, possession of a deadly weapon, possession of heroin, identity theft and forgery.
  

AG’s office warns of magazine scam

Here's a news release from Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office:

On Monday, June 4th, 2012, the Liberty Lake Police Department Contacted a magazine company called Strickly Business 1.  The company was attempting to sell magazine subscriptions door to door without a license and was issued criminal citations for Soliciting Without a License.  Salesman told Liberty Lake Officers they recently came from the Seattle area.
 
These types of magazine sales companies have surfaced in Spokane County several times in the past couple months.  Investigators from the Better Business Bureau have warned consumers that these types of companies are required to be registered with the Secretary of The State's Office and required to obtain a business license for such types of sales.
 
These types of companies have gained the attention of Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, whose office sent out the following release:
 
Guess who is back in town?  It’s the door-to-door magazine sellers from out of state who appear on doorsteps claiming outrageously priced subscriptions will help fund “second chance” opportunities for inner city youth.  The Washington Attorney General’s Office has issued warnings about such visitors before, and is again alerting consumers to beware of these solicitors and think twice before buying their magazines.
 
The Attorney General’s Office has received numerous complaints from victimized consumers who paid $50 to $784 for magazine subscriptions purchased from door-to-door sellers.  Consumers say they were touched by the solicitors’ stories and believed their purchases would be for a good cause. Solicitors claim to be earning money for college, working toward a better job, receiving points for a free trip, or contributing proceeds to help homeless youth.
 
“Unfortunately, another common theme is that time and again, consumers throughout the country never receive the magazines they purchased, or hear from the sellers again, and have no idea what happened to their money.” said Attorney General Rob McKenna.
 
Many of these solicitors claim to work for “business or job training” companies that send young adults door to door to give them a “fresh start” on life.  In a recent complaint to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, one seller claimed to represent a company called “Strictly Business.” The consumer did his own checking and found the company was based in Texas. It had a Better Business Bureau rating of “F” for failing to respond to complaints and failing to deliver magazines.
 
“Besides the potential of falling victim to fraud, there are many other risks involved, such as threats to personal safety or the possibility of being a victim of identity theft. It all makes buying items from strangers who knock on your door a bad idea,” added McKenna.
 
Consumers should always check out a charity with the Secretary of State prior to making a donation. A state search engine listing registered charities is available at www.secstate.wa.gov/charities.

    Many of these sales people claim they are raising money for school fundraisers, which is usually not true.  If you are contacted by these types of sales people you are urged to contact the Better Business Bureau at 509-232-0579 to verify the validity of the company

  

‘Secret Shopper’ loses $1,000 in fraud

Authorities are reminding people to be cautious when responding to purported “Secret Shopper” and other offers through email or phone after a Spokane Valley woman lost nearly $1,000.

The woman told a sheriff's deputy on Monday that she responded to an email asking if she would like to participate in the Secret Shopper program. She received a FedEx envelope on May 11 with a money order for $980, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

She also received an email explaining that she was to deposit the money order into her bank account, withdraw $805 and send it via Western Union to Tony Adams at 40 Arsene Rd., Quezon City, Manila.  She was told to keep $175.

The woman's bank notified her on May 19 that the money order was no good and that she was responsible for the $980. She received additional money orders in her mailbox that day with instructions to send money to Johnnie Swift in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Mike Michon in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Joe Cole from Novi, Michigan.

Women arrested in Oxycodone fraud

Two women are accused of trying to obtain the powerful prescription painkiller Oxycodone through fraudulent prescriptions Sunday night at a Spokane Valley pharmacy.

Police were called about 6 p.m. after a pharmacist at a store in the 13400 block of East Sprague Avenue realizing a prescription attempting to be filled by Justine A. Diaz, 22, was written on a pad that had been reported stolen through the Spokane Pharmacy Association, and that a woman matching Diaz' description had tried to fill the stolen prescriptions Saturday night at several Albertsons pharmacies, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said tdoay.

Diaz and Crystal A. Russell, 24, were detained after deputies arrived at the pharmacy and saw Russell, who was “visibly nervous” try to walk away with Diaz.

The pharmacist told deputies Diaz tried to fill a prescription in another name that she said belonged to a friend who had been in a collision. Diaz reportedly said she would pay cash because her friend did not have health insurance, according to the sheriff's office.

Deputies say Diaz refused to speak to deputies and Russell said she had no idea the prescriptions were stolen and forged, the sheriff's office said.

Russell was booked into jail on a charge of controlled substance conspiracy and Diaz was booked on charges of prescription fraud and second-degree possession of stolen property.

A man and woman were arrested in a similar case in Spokane Valley last week.

2 arrested on drug fraud charges in Valley

Two suspected prescription drug forgers were arrested Monday night after a chase with police in Spokane Valley.

Employees at a pharmacy in the 15700 block of East Broadway Avenue told police about 8:45 p.m. Monday that a woman attempted to fill an Oxycodone prescription written on a pad that had been reported stolen from a doctor's office, but left when she was told they would need to verify the prescription with the doctor, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies spotted a woman and man running through the parking lot and detained them for questioning. Nicole Wright, 27, said she was filling a prescription for a friend, but deputies cold find no record of the friend's name.

The other suspect, Coby Adams, 33, stepped on a scrap of paper that fell out of his pocket and slid it under a patrol car, but deputies retrieved it and discovered it was “the same stolen prescriptions Wright presented at the pharmacy, all for Oxycodone, all prescribed to Wright,” according to a news release.

Wright and Adams were booked into jail on charges of prescription fraud and second-degree possession of stolen property.

Phone scam targets Spokane businesses

Spokane businesses are being targeted for cash in a scheme that involves someone posing as a jailer to collect bail bond money for a supposedly arrested employee.

At least three businesses today reported phone calls from a man claiming to be a sheriff's corrections deputy seeking bail money for an employee jailed for a drunken driving crash, said Deputy Craig Chamberlin, spokesman for the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

The son of the owner of Dewey's Burgers and Brews on North Division Street was at the bank trying to withdraw money when a bank employee grew suspicious of the scenario, Chamberlin said.

Earlier today, a man claiming to be James Sullivan with a sheriff's personnel number of 6331 tried to get $1,600 from another local business owner. The man told the owner he couldn't give the owner the employee's name because of privacy laws but said he could provide a general description and that if he guessed the name, he would confirm if he or she was in custody.

The owner offered a name and the man confirmed and said he was in jail for drunken driving and for the crash and needed $16,000 to get out, or a $1,600 payment through a bail bond company.

The owner withdrew $2,000 and the man stayed on the phone for more than an hour as the owner went to a WalMart to send the money in two $800 money orders. The man requested one be sent to Nichole and the other to Seth Thomas in Florida, then hung up when the owner said he would only send the money to an actual business.

Sheriff's officials confirmed no employee by the name of James Sullivan exists. Corrections deputies are not authorized to contact people to set up bond agreements.

Anyone who is targeted by the scam is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233.
  

Con man stole $2.25M from investors

A Spokane con man had such a good sales pitch that he convinced a physician and a lawyer to take part in his get-rich quick schemes. In the end, some 10 investors lost more than $2.25 million they threw at his false promises.

Robert B. Hiatt, 57, pleaded guilty Thursday to eight felony fraud counts and a single count of intimidating a witness after he threatened to kill a whistleblower. Hiatt’s wide-ranging scheme promised huge returns on investments that never existed, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Durkin said.

Read the rest of the story here.

20-year conman headed to prison

A Spokane man convicted of stealing money from a homeless woman who gave him her savings to rent a home is headed to prison.

But it wasn't the theft that earned Unters “Chuck” Love, 58, a 27-month sentence, it was a bail jumping charge he accrued after he bonded out of jail on his theft charges.

A jury recently convicted Love of six counts of second-degree theft, but he faced only 14 months in prison for those charges. He'll serve that sentence the same time as his sentence for bail jumping.

He'll also be credited for 10 months spent in jail and be eligible for typical sentence reductions through the Department of Corrections.

“He'll do another eight months and then be out and about, no strings attached,” said Deputy Prosecutor George Gagnon. “Thanks, state Legislature.”

Gagnon points to Love's long history of cons and is lack of remorse when describing a man he said “was a pleasure to prosecute.”

“He's being doing this or 20 years it's just the first time since 1991 that we have said no you're not getting a deal, you're going to trial”

Love has at least 107 actions against him in civil courts.

Love denied the charges in an interview at the Spokane County Jail, where he is awaiting transport to prison.

“I never did anything to them except help them try to get into a home,” Love said of the victims.

Love said his victims would have been able to move in to their homes had the police not intervened.

But Gagnon said Love is simply a conman who had no problem stealing money from homeless people and trying to sell or rent properties he doesn't own.

Twelve Spokane County residents apparently agreed. They convicted him April 12 after a short trial in Spokane County Superior Court.

Love said his defense was incompetent, and that the truth will soon be known.

“There is a lot of corruption going on and it's going to come out in the appeal,” Love said. “”The courts and the police department, they basically coerced these people to say what they said.”

Love filed a complaint against Gagnon to the state bar association, but it was dismissed.

In the interview last week, Love declined to discuss a stadium project he proposed in Airway Heights back in 2003.

Love had signed a contract with the Kalispel Tribe to lease 20 acres next to the tribe's Northern Quest casino, but he refused to talk to reporters about his bankruptcy filing or earlier felony convictions for theft and check-bouncing.Read more in the story from 2003 here.

Love also was involved in a scheme in Yakima in 2004 involving a football league.

Rogue lumber employee guilty in fraud

An unauthorized sales agreement between a rogue North Idaho lumber employee and a Spokane company has led to a felony conviction in federal court.

Trevor Mokry, 32, received about $581,000 from The Pallet Place for lumber he sold them from Stimson Lumber Company in Plummer, Idaho, but he didn't have permission to sell the wood and never gave his employer the money.

Mokry, who was responsible for loading and unloading trucks in the lumber yard, admitted to selling the lumber to the company between June 2007 and June 2011, the U.S. Attorney's Office said today.

An employee with Pallet Place drove from Spokane to Plummer to pick up the lumber and give Mokry checks.
Mokry's scheme unraveled June 1 when another employee saw him receive a check for $4,666 from a Pallet Place driver.

Employees noticed that Pallet Place did not appear as a costumer in Stimson's bill records, so they traveled to the Spokane Valley headquarters, where they saw about $200,000 in Stimson lumber.

“Pallet Place was paying Mokry sixty percent or less of Stimson's retail price for the stolen wood products, plus $200 per order,” according to court documents.

Mokry was fired June 2. He pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to aiding the transportation of stolen goods.

Mokry faces restitution of $581,445.24 when he's sentenced, which is scheduled for July 16. He also faces up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years probation.

Woman arrested on 109 felonies released

A Spokane County health care employee accused of stealing money from a 79-year-old woman was released from jail today after appearing in court on 109 felony charges.

Deanna M. Purser, 50, was arrested Wednesday after a sheriff's investigation alleged she'd been making unauthorized purchases and taking unauthorized cash back while grocery shopping for the woman.

Detectives believe Purser, employed by ResCare, also used the woman's money to purchase personal groceries, cigarettes, Christmas presents for her children and a subscription to Sports Illustrated for her husband. She'd been caring for the woman part time after the woman suffered a stroke.

Spokane County sheriff's Detective Tamie Spitzer determined Purser took $31,762 in cash back at Albertsons from 2009 to 2011. She also determined $33,141 in groceries had been purchased, but the victim's average grocery bill should have been just $300 per month.

Prosecutors have not yet formally charged Purser.

She does not appear to have a criminal record, so even if she's convicted of 109 felonies, she'll face only about 22 to 29 months in prison. One or two theft convictions carries only a couple months in jail.

Health care worker arrested for theft

A Spokane County home health care employee is accused of stealing money from a 79-year-old woman she'd cared for since 2003.

Deanna M. Purser, 50, was arrested today after a lengthy investigation by Spokane County sheriff's Detective Tamie Spitzer alleged she'd been making unauthorized purchases and taking unauthorized cash back while grocery shopping for the woman.

The victim's daughter contacted the sheriff's office after she noticed an abnormally large amount of money spent at the Albertsons grocery store in Liberty Lake. She'd become suspicious when she noticed her mother's bank statements were lower than usual while preparing her taxes, according to the sheriff's office.

Spitzer determined Purser took $31,762 in cash back from 2009 to 2011. She also determined $33,141 in groceries had been purchased, but the victim's average grocery bill should have been just $300 per month.

Purser was booked into the Spokane County Jail today on seven counts of first-degree theft, 51 counts of unlawful possession of a payment instrument and 51 counts of second-degree theft.

Cops warn of South Hill magazine fraud

Authorities are warning of a a young man on the South Hill who's scamming residents out of money by selling fraudulent magazine subscriptions.

A resident reported to Crime Check Monday that a 17- to 18-year-old boy came to her home on Friday and said he was selling magazines to benefit the Ferris High School soccer team, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday.

She gave the man a $55 check “happy to support her local high school” and was told the company selling the subscriptions was Blue Diamond Subscriptions, which is based in Arizona, according to the sheriff's office.

She learned on Monday that Ferris High is not involved in the fundraiser. Sheriff's officials contacted the Better Business Bureau and learned of a complaint to the Phoenix office about the company. They have yet to be able to contact the company.

The business is not registered in Washington.

Anyone who contacts someone who claims to be from the company is asked to call Crime Check at (509) 456-2233 and the BBB at (509) 455-4200.

Man pleads guilty in bank fraud case

An Arizona man who helped a North Idaho woman commit bank fraud has pleaded guilty.

Charles Earl Baker, 32, faces up to 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of probation when he's sentenced June 19 in U.S. District Court in Coeru d'Alene.

Baker pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit bank fraud for a scheme involving Michelle Ann Mason, who pleaded guilty earlier this month.

Baker met Mason in late 2010 and opened a bank account that he used to deposit counterfeit, altered or forged checks that had been stolen from mail.

Baker then withdrew the cash using ATMs. Mason admitted to organizing Baker and at least five others to steal mail in the Oldtown, Idaho, area. Mason is to be sentenced June 18.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Office, Kootenai County Sheriff's Department, Bonner County Sheriff's Office, and the U.S. Secret Service.

‘Grandparents scam’ costs man $20k

Authorities are again warning of the “grandparents scam” after a north Spokane County man wired nearly $20,000 to Peru.

The man said he received a call about 10 a.m. Tuesday from a man he thought was his grandson. The caller said he needed $2,400 to get out of jail and that if he wired the money to Lima, Peru, they would avoid a two-day waiting period, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.

He did so, and the man called again saying the judge increased bail and he needed $6,250. She transferred that money, then transferred another $6,250 upon request.

The man called again Wednesday about 9:30 a.m. and asked for $4,800 to pay lawyer fees. The victim transferred the money, but he refused another request for money that afternoon and called the sheriff's office.

It turns out the man was not his grandson.

The sheriff's office released the phone numbers the man called from today as part of a warning to the public:  438-998-6142, 514-458-3080, 438-993-6948, 438-998-6142

Similar scams were reported in spring 2010, December 2010 and in fall 2009. Anyone with an elderly relative should warn them of the scam.

Deer Park house ‘rental’ actually a scam

Brooke Bear was surprised when several people stopped by her home interested in renting it.

They referenced the ad she posted on Craigslist, but she isn’t renting out the house; she’s selling it, and she never posted an ad on Craigslist.

Bear knew something was fishy, so she hopped online and found the ad, which included a picture and description of her four-bedroom house, located in a rural area south of Deer Park, as well as an email address using her name.

“I was kind of scared,” she said. “I pulled it up and thought, ‘Who is doing this?’ You just kind of go, ‘Ew, creepy.’ ”

Read the rest of Chelsea Bannach's story here.