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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.

Jeffreys sentencing delayed again

A judge has ordered the sentencing for married couple Greg and Kimberly Jeffreys, both of whom pleaded guilty to defrauding development investors in Spokane and elsewhere, pushed to the summer.

For Greg Jeffreys, the accused mastermind of schemes ranging from leasing property at inflated rices in the restored Ridpath Hotel downtown and bilking the federal government of funds in the construction of a military installation off Highway 2, it is the second continuance granted ahead of sentencing. Prosecutors want Jeffreys to serve eight years in prison and pay back millions in restitution from fraudulent schemes, but Jeffreys plans to fight that amount by calling a cavalcade of witnesses at his sentencing hearing.

That hearing will now tentatively take place in June, according to a court order signed last week.

Kimberly Jeffreys, who pleaded guilty in February to fraud charges stemming from the military installation construction, was granted her first sentencing continuance. A hearing scheduled for next month has been pushed to July, according to court records. For her involvement, prosecutors want Kimberly Jeffreys to spend six months in prison and pay restitution of up to $150,000.

A third conspirator, Shannon Stiltner, was sentenced in February to seven months of prison time and ordered to pay restitution to two investors totaling about $58,000.

Judges fear IDOC using probation to manage budget

Idaho judges are raising concerns that the state Department of Correction is pressing to inappropriately release some offenders on probation to ease a swelling prison population, the Idaho Statesman newspaper reported Sunday in a front-page article by reporter Dan Popkey. At issue is the state's “rider” program, in which judges can retain jurisdiction over offenders while they undergo an intensive program for 90 to 180 days, after which the judge can decide whether to release them on probation, or release jurisdiction and send them to prison for their full sentences, based on how they fare in the program. Fourth District Judge Mike Wetherell is raising the alarm, as is 4th District Judge Cheri Copsey. In a letter to the heads of the House and Senate judiciary committees and IDOC chief Brent Reinke, Wetherell wrote, “I believe the problem could in the future, if it has not already, create serious public sfety concerns.”

Wetherell noted a case in which an IDOC employee recommended probation for a sex offender, telling the court, “We're out of space in the prison and they want us to be very judicious in who we recommend,” Popkey reported. Two weeks after Wetherell sent that offender back to prison, Copsey rejected a probation recommendation from another offender and attached the 82-page transcript of Wetherell's earlier sentencing hearing. Wetherell said in the hearing that he objected to “a system in which pressure is placed upon employees,” and said, “It is their obligation to say we would like to recommend incarceration in this case, but budgetary constraints prohibit us from doing so. That's called honesty.”

You can read Popkey's full report here; click below for a shorter version of the story via the Associated Press. IDOC denies that it's pressuring employees to release offenders on probation who shouldn't be released, and said the employees must have misunderstood. In a sidebar, Popkey reports that another Idaho judge is raising concerns that IDOC's medical services contractor is skimping on prescription medications for inmates in the rider program, causing them psychological and medical problems that then lead to them failing the rider and being sent to prison for their full terms.

2 more suspects ID’d in drug robbery

Two suspected accomplices have been charged with robbing a Spokane clinic of prescription drugs in December.

 Shawn Savynjo Struck, 41, was arrested this weekend on a second-degree robbery charge for allegedly helping Brian Lee “Rowdy” Riley rob the Spokane Falls Family Clinic, 120 W. Mission Ave. on Dec. 29. He remains in jail on $25,000 bond after appearing in court today.

Riley (pictured) was armed with a paintball gun when he robbed the clinic, police say. Struck held the door open for him, police say, and suspect Mary Jane Eilliot, 30, is accused of driving the getaway car. Elliot is wanted on a $30,000 warrant for second-degree robbery.

Riley pleaded guilty earlier this month to attempted second-degree robbery and second-degree robbery for the December case and for a gunpoint home-invasion robbery last August. He was sentenced to 27 months in prison.

Riley told Elliott he shot the pharmacist with his paintball gun and someone threw a bottle of Hydrocodone at him, according to court documents. Elliott said she drove Riley to the clinic in exchange for 45 pills, police say.

Riley's girlfriend, Erica M. Solberg, is charged with witness tampering for allegedly intimidating a witness in the case.
  

Sex crime charge reduced, to, um, burglary

Here’s an odd one: A former BSU football player who was charged with two counts having sexual contact with a female inmate while working as an officer at a state prison has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge - burglary. Timothy Ryan Gilligan will not have to register as a sex offender after he admitted in court that he twice entered the Idaho Maximum Security Institution with the intent of having sexual contact with a female inmate, a felony, the Idaho Statesman reports. Entering a building with the intent to commit a felony is burglary. / More here

Thoughts?

Courthouse watch: 8.14.09

A Spokane man who stockpiled what federal prosecutors described as a “troubling” arsenal of illegal weapons will spend the next four years in prison.

Ronald L. Struve, 67, was also sentenced today in Seattle to two years probation and ordered to undergo mental health treatment. U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman said his arsenal posed “a huge danger to the community,” according to the Associated Press.

Struve, a legal stenographer, was arrested in Spokane in January after federal agents raided a storage locker in Bellevue, seizing 37 machine guns, 54 grenades, two grenade launchers and 7.5 pounds of C-4 plastic explosives.

The arsenal was discovered when rent wasn’t paid and the Bellevue unit’s contents were auctioned last November.

The agents also searched a stored vehicle and two rental units at 2814 N. Napa St. in Spokane leased by Struve, seizing seven machine guns, a Russian sniper rifle, an AK-47 assault rifle, and a host of machine gun parts that are illegal to own without proper federal licenses.

Agents also seized 33 other legal firearms for safekeeping from the north Spokane location, according to court documents. Prosecutors say many of the weapons had been stolen from the military.

The arsenal was discovered when rent wasn’t paid and the unit’s contents were auctioned last November. Struve was born in Los Angeles and worked as a court reporter in Eugene, Ore; King County Superior Court and as a freelance court reporter in Spokane, according to Stansell.

Struve’s lawyer, Jay Stansell, has described his client as “nothing more than a loner-type person with some unusual political ideas.”

In a sentencing memorandum, Stansell said Struve collected the weapons back in the 1970s for fear of a Cold War threat.

He bought the weapons over several years from a man he met at a gun show who claimed to be a Navy SEAL, Stansell wrote, as was “chagrined and embarrassed” to be facing prison time now.

“As time passed, and as the perceived imminent threat of communist invasion never materialized, Mr. Struve found himself encumbered by this long ago acquired arsenal,” Stransell wrote. “But he never attempted to dispose of it, because of the obvious, practical difficulties of doing so, as well as his personal inclination to never get rid of anything.”

Marijuana grow gets man 6 years in prison

A Mexican man will spend more than six years in prison for operating a large marijuana grow that did more than $10,000 damage to the Okanogan National Forest, according to the U.S attorney’s office.

Moyses Mesa-Barajas, 43, was arrested last August after federal and state officials found him in a grow complex with more than 10,000 plants.

Mesa-Barajas claimed ownership of more than 3,000 of the plants, according to federal court documents, and he pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to manufacture more than 1,000 marijuana plants and to destruction of government property wroth more than $1,000.

His arrest came after federal agents spotted grow operations in the forest connected by trails.

A search warrant served at the site resulted in Mesa-Barajas’ arrest, though several people escaped and were never found, according to a news release. There, federal agents found empty containers of fertilizer, pesticides and rat poison and determined the growers had re-routed streams, terraced mountain slopes, and generally just trashed the place.

On Tuesday, Judge Fred Van Sickle sentenced Mesa-Barajas to 75 months in prison.

He’s to pay about $7,300 in restitution. If he’s able to gain United States citizenship before he’s released, he’ll be on probation for five years, records show.

James McDevitt, U.S attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, praised the sentence in a prepared statement.

“Since no single agency has the manpower or resources to detect and dismantle large scale grow operations on public land, this case highlights the success that can be achieved with cooperative investigations by multiple state and federal agencies. Marijuana traffickers cause significant environmental damage to our public lands each year, not to mention the risk they pose to the public and recreationalists,” the statement reads.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the North Central Washington Narcotics Task Force, the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Patrol, the Twisp Police Department, the Winthrop Marshal’s Office, North Central Washington Special Response Team, the U.S. Border Patrol, the Washington National Guard, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This case was prosecuted by Tim Ohms, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.