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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Brothers face fraud charges

Allegations involve a firearms business

A Spokane felon who nearly froze to death in the woods of Pend Oreille County after a long police pursuit last February now faces federal fraud charges. Michael Gary Stoddard, 32, and his 40-year-old brother, Ricky, have been charged in U.S. District Court in Spokane with running a fraudulent firearms business that defrauded 10 people around the country out of $24,369. Both brothers have pleaded innocent, and their trial dates haven’t been set. Michael Gary Stoddard is also awaiting trials in state courts on eluding and theft charges in connection with the chase last February. A federal grand jury indicted the brothers on 31 counts of wire and mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit those crimes. The indictment says the scheme began in December 1994 when Ricky Allen Ritchey, also known as Rick Stoddard, rented a post office box at a Mail Boxes Etc. store on West Francis under the name of Ronald D. Harms. Armed with a fraudulently obtained temporary Washington driver’s license for the fictitious Harms, the brothers allegedly opened a bank account and began advertising low-cost guns and ammunition in firearms publications. Ten people sent money and got nothing, according to the grand jury. The indictment says Ritchey, who gave an address of 5906 N. Whitehouse, posed as Harms to obtain the false driver’s license as well as a false concealed weapons permit. When the brothers were arrested this month, Michael Stoddard claimed to be self-employed with no income and only $175 to support him and his 9-month-old daughter. Stoddard said he had been living with his parents at 220 E. Wellesley. Stoddard’s wife, Paige J. Sponcler, 27, was sentenced in September to two years in prison for embezzling $266,663 from All Star Homes, Century 21-Randock and Randock Mobile Homes. She was the bookkeeper for the three businesses. U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno last week refused to release Stoddard from jail pending trial. Imbrogno said no amount of bail or conditions would keep the public safe from Stoddard or guarantee he would show up for trial. Imbrogno cited Stoddard’s history of using aliases and false identification, and his failure to obey previous court orders. She said Stoddard has a “significant criminal history,” including charges of kidnapping, rape, assault with a deadly weapon, eluding, burglary and theft. A Spokane County jury acquitted Stoddard of the rape and kidnapping charges in September when testimony contradicted some of the alleged victim’s claims. But Imbrogno cited similar violence for which Stoddard was convicted in 1997. In that case, Imbrogno found, Stoddard threatened his 4-year-old son and the boy’s mother with a knife. The magistrate said Stoddard was accused of undressing the woman, binding her with duct tape, putting her into the trunk of a car, shooting at her and raping her in front of their son. Stoddard also allegedly beat the boy so badly with a belt that the child “was covered with severe welts,” Imbrogno said in her written decision to keep the defendant locked up. She concluded Stoddard was “out of control and not supervisable.” Meanwhile, Stoddard faces trial Jan. 10 in Spokane County Superior Court for alleged first-degree theft of the Toyota 4-Runner in which Pend Oreille County authorities say he led sheriff’s deputies on a 20-mile, high-speed chase during a blizzard last February. He allegedly gave a dealer false information to lease the vehicle. Stoddard also is scheduled for trial Jan. 18 in Pend Oreille County Superior Court on charges of attempting to elude the deputies who pursued him on a Spokane County fugitive warrant. After his vehicle got stuck in the snow, authorities said, Stoddard fled into the woods with temperatures in the low 20s and snow being driven by 45 mph winds. Deputies, who thought Stoddard might have been armed, simply waited for him to come back out of the woods. Almost three hours later, after falling into a creek, he stumbled out and collapsed unconscious.
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