Gone were the bright lights and glitz of Las Vegas. So were the spoils of a multimillion-dollar drug-running empire that stretched from Washington to North Dakota.
Instead, Loren M. Toelle, a 52-year-old former stripper, walked in to face the federal judge Tuesday wearing rumpled green-and-white-striped pants and a matching shirt that read: “Shoshone County Inmate.”
U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill spoke to Toelle just an hour after her ex-husband, Dr. Stanley Toelle, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors for misleading tax collectors about the couple’s income, and four hours after her brother, 48-year-old Robert Hill, received 12 1/2 years in federal prison for his role in the drug ring.
“Your case is truly an enigma, a puzzle to me” Winmill told Loren Toelle. “You seem very intelligent. You could have done so many other things in your life. Why you turned to this is not one I can figure out.”
Defense attorney Terry Ryan asked Winmill to sentence Toelle to 10 years, but the judge selected the midrange of the sentencing guideline and sentenced her to just over 17 1/2 years. She will be about 70 if she serves her entire sentence.
Afterward, Toelle mouthed to her family: “I’ll be OK. I love you.”
Toelle earlier pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to deal drugs and launder money as part of a 13-count indictment that stemmed from a drug distribution operation that ran from 2009 to 2016 and included four of her five adult children, several friends and others.
During the hearing, Toelle continually twisted her chair from side to side and took full responsibility for the situation that collapsed around her and the criminal case that included 11 co-conspirators.
“I did what I did and I deserve to be punished,” she said between tears. “To see some of the people I put poison into, would I want that for my own child? I want to apologize to America because that is not the way we were brought up.”
Her late father was a minister, and her mother cried in court as Toelle spoke. “I failed my father,” she said. “To my family, I love you and I’m very sorry.”
To her children, she said: “I had an opportunity to raise them and then I put them in this mess,” she said. “I deserve whatever you give me.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Traci Whelan said that Toelle, as part of her plea agreement, agreed to turn over about $2 million in cash and property. She noted that Toelle was convicted in 2006 of a felony drug charge in Coeur d’Alene.
“But that didn’t deter her. She just revamped the organization,” Whelan said. Toelle “won’t be able to dance at age 68 and make money like she was before. Ms. Toelle was the leader and organizer. The money it made was obscene.”
Toelle maintained all along that Stanley Toelle was unaware of her criminal empire. He agreed to pay about $47,500 for back taxes and interest after pleading guilty to submitting a false document to the Internal Revenue Service. He faces a maximum of a year in prison; his sentencing was scheduled for June 19.
Stanley Toelle, 61, declined to comment. But his attorney, Nic Vieth, asked Judge Winmill to expedite the sentencing on behalf of his client.
As part of the deal, Stanley Toelle agreed to forfeit $150,000 in order to keep ownership of two properties in Las Vegas. The government will release all seizure claims against Toelle’s lakefront home in Coeur d’Alene, his 2010 Nissan Murano and a third property in Las Vegas as part of the plea deal.
“The issue is that my client has been sitting idle for the last year and a half,” Vieth told Winmill. “This has been difficult on him financially. Dr. Toelle is hoping to move on and get back to work.”
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