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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Spokane attorney charged with forging judge’s signatures

Spokane attorney Aaron Kandratowicz rents space at this  office at 1312 N. Monroe St. in Spokane. Kandratowicz originally represented Quanah Spencer in a civil lawsuit that has now turned into a criminal investigation after someone forged Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno's signature on a document that reversed her earlier judgment against Spencer. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane attorney Aaron Kandratowicz rents space at this office at 1312 N. Monroe St. in Spokane. Kandratowicz originally represented Quanah Spencer in a civil lawsuit that has now turned into a criminal investigation after someone forged Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno's signature on a document that reversed her earlier judgment against Spencer. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A Spokane attorney charged with forging Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno’s signature now faces six felony charges.

Aaron J. Kandratowicz, 33, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three counts of forgery relating to the Moreno signatures and three counts of second-degree identity theft. The latter charges come because the alleged forgeries were used to eliminate payments owed by a client of Kandratowicz.

The charges against Kandratowicz are the latest development in an ongoing legal donnybrook that started with a civil lawsuit filed by Quanah and Gwen Spencer. Quanah Spencer, who also is a lawyer, currently works as tribal liaison for BNSF Railway and is the former spokesman for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.

Spencer, 41, originally was charged with felony forgery in connection with Moreno’s signature and was arrested in January in Missoula, Montana, where he and his wife now reside. Spokane County Superior Court Judge James Triplet dismissed that felony forgery charge in February as investigators focused the case on Kandratowicz.

But in charging documents filed May 11, Spokane Police detective Paul Lebsock said he believes evidence now exists to charge Quanah Spencer with two counts of felony forgery and two counts of second-degree identity theft relating to the same judge’s signatures.

Lebsock wrote that the Spencers knew or should have known that the judge’s signature had been forged and did not report the crimes under “the obvious motive to reclaim money, while arguably claiming plausible deniability,” court records state.

However, charges have not been refiled against Quanah Spencer, defense attorney Carl Oreskovich said.

The case “hasn’t been filed and hopefully it won’t be,” Oreskovich said.

He noted that Lebsock, the police detective, at first indicates in the 24-page court record that Spencer is the alleged victim of Kandratowicz. And in later pages, Lebsock concludes Spencer was aware of the alleged forgeries.

“I’ve never read anything like it,” Oreskovich said. “Normally a probable cause affidavit sets forth an objective summary of the investigation. It doesn’t have the officer’s conclusions and interpretations and this affidavit is replete with them.”

Capt. Brad Arleth, who supervises Lebsock, and Kandratowicz’s attorney, John Riseborough, both did not immediately return messages Wednesday seeking comment.

Legal mess

The Spencers originally hired Kandratowicz in 2015 to sue SAS Oregon, a company that remodeled the South Hill home the Spencers later purchased at 4311 S. Hogan St.

Moreno later ruled in favor of SAS Oregon and dismissed the Spencers’ lawsuit. She also awarded $37,000 in attorney fees for the lawyers representing the remodeling company. After the ruling, those attorneys obtained approval to garnish Quanah Spencer’s wages from BNSF to pay off the fees.

On Oct. 23, the Spencers walked into the Public Safety Building and filed a police report alleging that an employee of the attorneys who won the case had committed identity theft by convincing the Spencers’ bank to withdraw $150 and $549.83 from their account.

But Lebsock checked the Spencers’ bank account and found no withdrawals for those amounts. Based on those records, Lebsock is seeking to have Quanah and Gwen Spencer charged with a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report “in consideration of the motive to further attempt to stop the garnishments.”

Three days after filing the police report, BNSF received the faxed court order signed with what appeared to be Moreno’s signature. The order directed the railroad to stop garnishing Quanah Spencer’s pay “and to immediately release their funds,” Lebsock wrote.

In November, attorneys for the remodeling company started calling Moreno to find out why she had reversed her decision. They sent her a copy of her alleged order, which was dated July 28.

Moreno called for police and told an investigator that she left for vacation on July 24 and had not approved any orders on the date in question, Lebsock wrote.

“It was easily determined to be a forged document,” he wrote.

Lebsock then tracked down the phone number of the fax machine from which the forged order was sent to BNSF.

He traced it to a UPS Store not far from the Spencers’ home. From that business, he was able to obtain a debit card number that he successfully traced to the Spencers’ bank account in Missoula, where the couple recently moved.

“I still remain optimistic that when someone objectively reviews it, that they will conclude that Quanah was a victim and did not engage in any criminal activity,” Oreskovich said.

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