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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Convicted of fraud, Derrick Fincher tries to make deal with judge but gets prison instead

The Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse in Spokane. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Derrick J. Fincher had one more deal to close. The man convicted of helping swindle more than $2 million from three investors tried to convince a federal judge Thursday to keep him out of prison so he could pay back his victims at the rate of at least $100,000 a year.

Fincher, 48, of Spokane Valley, submitted a letter from his employer and testified that he has construction jobs lined up provide more than enough income to make his victims whole. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rice then began to read off all the times that Fincher promised to pay, but didn’t.

Rice mentioned the time when Fincher got a nice chunk of change from one victim – and immediately bought a 2014 Ford Raptor pickup. He mentioned another case in which Fincher argued he couldn’t pay a victim what he owed because of a snowstorm.

“You blame the victims for meddling for trying to find out where their money was,” Rice said. “It’s just one thing after another. I don’t find that you accept any responsibility for your crimes.

“Yet, you stand before me and say you are going to pay it back. I don’t believe it.”

Rice then rejected the request for probation and sentenced Fincher to 135 months, or just more than 11 years, in federal prison. He also ordered Fincher to pay $2,015,000 in restitution to the victims of his various frauds, including a failed 2012 celebrity golf tournament at the Coeur d’Alene Resort that sought to have Los Angeles Lakers president Earvin “Magic” Johnson appear as the celebrity guest.

Fincher’s attorney, Nic Vieth, asked for leniency based on the argument that the scam was mostly carried out by his co-conspirators.

“It seems apparent to me that my client was the lowest on the totem pole,” Vieth said. “It is my understanding that Mr. Nixon and Mr. Thompson were the main instigators.”

On Sept. 7, Vassily “Tony” A. Thompson, 65, of Los Angeles, was sentenced to nine years in federal prison after having previously been found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Rice sentenced Thompson to prison despite his testimony that he has 18 months to live from stage-four cancer.

Later that same day, Nixon – who pleaded guilty and offered to testify against both Fincher and Thompson – was sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay $1.855 million as part of the criminal scheme.

According to court records, the three men defrauded $160,000 out of organizers for the Coeur d’Alene golf tournament; some $1.3 from a film studio venture in Montana; and $855,000 from a developer seeking funds for a construction project in North Carolina.

The men used a complicated scheme in which they obtained banking documents and altered them to make it seem that they had access to vast lines of credit. They then played a shell game with the money, showered the victims with excuses and spent lavishly on themselves, according to court testimony.

“I never intended to take any money,” Fincher said. “I intended to get the projects off the ground. I take full responsibility for my actions. I promise to make this right.”

But he may never get that chance. After Rice sentenced Fincher to federal prison, Vieth requested a date for Fincher to self-report to prison and allow him to get his affairs in order.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Jones, who successfully prosecuted all three cases, objected. Rice then turned to Fincher.

“I think I’ll have you start serving your sentence now,” Rice said. “I’m remanding you to the custody of the U.S. Marshals.”