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Spokane/East. Wash/North Idaho News Releases for Sun. May. 22 - 3:48 pm
Wed. 05/18/22
U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref Announces FBI Sweep Down on Gang Activity, Drug Trafficking, and Violent Crime in Yakima County
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 05/18/22 5:47 PM

Yakama, WA – Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that a federal Grand Jury has returned numerous indictments charging multiple individuals with various federal crimes arising in the Yakima area, including on the Yakama Nation Indian Reservation. 

Over the past several years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has dedicated increased resources to addressing violent crime in Yakima County, including on the Yakama Nation. In the past six months, the FBI’s office in Yakima has brought on a number of additional special agents dedicated to investigating violent crime. In addition, the FBI is leading a joint task force, which includes Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, the Washington State Department of Corrections, and the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office. The purpose of the FBI Task Force is to disrupt gang activity, weapons trafficking, narcotics distribution, and to eradicate violent crime in Eastern Washington. 

Seven of the indictments announced today charge the following individuals with multiple violations of federal law:

  • Marcelo Anthony Benson, age 25, of Wapato, Washington, an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation.  In State prison on unrelated charges.  Currently charged with felon in possession of a firearm.
  • Dennis William Chapman, age 62, of Toppenish, Washington. Arrested on May 17, 2022, and charged with two counts of distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine. 
  • Joseph Wade Clark, age 45, of Yakima, Washington.  In custody at the Yakima County jail on unrelated charges.  Charged with two counts of distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
  • Nicholas Medelez, age 33, of Yakima, Washington.  Arrested on May 17, 2022, and charged with three counts of distributing methamphetamine.
  • Sergio Hernan Mendoza, age 47, of Sunnyside, Washington.  Arrested on May 17, 2022, and charged with two counts of distributing 50 grams or more of methamphetamine.
  • Tiare Aqua Leilani Miller, age 34, of Toppenish, Washington.  Arrested on May 17, 2022, and charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
  • Raymond Holt, age 75, of Wapato, Washington. Arrested on May 18, 2022, and charged with abusive sexual contact of an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation.

Additional fugitives are currently being sought by the FBI Task Force.  More information will be provided upon their arrest. 

U.S. Attorney Waldref commended the FBI Task Force for its dedication to combating drug distribution and pursuing violent offenders in the Yakima area, including on the Yakama Nation. “The opioid epidemic devastating our region is closely linked with an increase in violent crime. The uptick in violence has hit Native American communities especially hard,” she explained. “Native Americans experience some of the highest rates of violence in our country. The FBI Task Force – which focuses its efforts to protect our community from drug trafficking, gang members, violent offenders, and felons who possess firearms – reflects the United States’ commitment to addressing the causes and symptoms of the increased violence in Native American communities and elsewhere.”

“These arrests demonstrate how critical it is for law enforcement to work together,” U.S. Attorney Waldref continued. “By combining the resources of federal, state, tribal and local law enforcement through focused investigation and prosecution, we are able to do more to make communities in Eastern Washington safe and strong. The indictments announced today send a clear message that our community will not tolerate drug trafficking and violence.” 

“The public has been demanding a place to live and work where our citizens feel safe,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle Field Office. “The actions taken today by the FBI and our law enforcement partners demonstrate that we hear you, and we are working to provide our communities with the protection you deserve.”

Yakima County Sherriff Robert Udell stated, “The latest round of FBI Task Force arrests is a fantastic example of the FBI’s commitment to public safety in Yakima County. The FBI and the Yakima County Sherriff’s Office enjoy a strong partnership, which is committed to removing violent criminals from our communities.  I believe the FBI Task Force, coupled with local partners, is a significant step towards ensuring our citizens’ safety.”

“With violent crime on the rise across the country, law enforcement must come together to combat the root causes of this violence more so than ever,” said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “Today’s arrests demonstrate HSI’s commitment to our daily quest to keep the Pacific Northwest secure by pursuing those who blatantly disregard the health and safety of the community we live in.”

Lloyd Easterling, Chief Patrol Agent for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Spokane Sector, emphasized his agency’s commitment to keeping the communities of Eastern Washington safe:  “The U.S. Border Patrol remains committed to working together with our partners to identify, arrest and remove violent offenders from our communities.” 

As noted above, the cases announced today are being investigated by a Joint FBI Task Force, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, the Washington State Department of Corrections, and the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office. The cases are being prosecuted by Matthew Stone, Michael Murphy, and Tom Hanlon, Assistant United States Attorneys for the Eastern District of Washington.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

United States v. Marcelo Anthony Benson: 1:22-CR-2043-SMJ

United States v. Dennis William Chapman: 1:22-CR-2047-SAB

United States v. Joseph Wade Clark: 1:22-CR-2044-SAB

United States v. Nicholas Medelez: 1:22-CR-2050-SAB

United States v. Sergio Hernan Mendoza: 1:22-CR-2046-SMJ

United States v. Tiare Aqua Leilani Miller: 1:22-CR-2048-MKD

United States v. Raymond Holt:  1:22-CR-2060-SAB


Spokane Valley Volleyball Coach Sentenced To 60 Months in Federal Prison for Child Pornography Offense
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 05/18/22 4:31 PM

Spokane, Washington –United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice sentenced Richard Dale Wright, 50, of Spokane, Washington, to 60 months in federal custody for downloading images of child pornography. Judge Rice ordered Wright to be taken into immediate custody, and also ordered him to serve the remainder of his life on federal supervision after he is released from prison.  Wright pleaded guilty earlier this year to Receipt of Child Pornography.

According to court documents, an undercover FBI Special Agent went online in the Spring of 2019 to identify people in the Spokane community who were sharing large volumes of known or suspected child pornography.  The agent downloaded a number of child pornography files from Wright’s computer, and a subsequent search warrant at his residence in Spokane Valley resulted in the seizure of digital devices containing images and videos of child pornography dating back to 2017.  Wright had been a girls’ volleyball coach in Spokane and the Spokane Valley, including at Lewis & Clark High School, and with Apex, a club youth volleyball program for which Wright served as the director.  He was also on the Board of Directors for the Evergreen Region Volleyball Association.  Although the ages of the victims depicted in Wright’s child pornography collection were consistent with the volleyball players he coached, FBI was not able to positively identify any of Wright’s former players in the child pornography images on his digital devices.

“It is deeply troubling that a coach, entrusted with the safety of teenage – and younger – girls, engaged in child pornography conduct that demonstrated his sexual interest in girls that age,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.  “It is a relief that the FBI did not recover evidence that Mr. Wright recorded child pornography images or videos of any of the players he coached.  Today’s sentence nevertheless serves as a clarion call to anyone who would endanger or exploit children in the Eastern District or elsewhere: law enforcement is actively investigating your online conduct, and the consequences for engaging in child exploitation are severe.”

“As a coach and community role model, Mr. Wright held a position of trust and he should be held to a high standard of conduct,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle Field Office. “Instead, he possessed hundreds of images that revictimize innocent children every time their abuse is viewed.  I commend the investigators and prosecutors who vigilantly protect our youth.”

This case was pursued as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the United States Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals, who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. The Project Safe Childhood Initiative (“PSC”) has five major components:

· Integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases, and to identify and rescue children;

· Participation of PSC partners in coordinated national initiatives;

· Increased federal enforcement in child pornography and enticement cases;

· Training of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents; and

· Community awareness and educational programs.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”

This case was investigated by the Spokane Resident Office of the FBI.  The case was prosecuted by David M. Herzog, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. 

2:21-CR-00031-TOR


Spokane Man Sentenced To 12 Years for Sexual Exploitation of a Child
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 05/18/22 4:30 PM

 

Spokane, Washington –United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice sentenced Fainyan Kain James Kimmerly, 22, of Spokane, Washington, to 12 years in federal prison for persuading a 13-year-old to produce sexual images of the 13-year-old and send the images to Kimmerly.  Judge Rice also ordered Kimmerly to serve the remainder of his life on federal supervision after he is released from prison.  Kimmerly pleaded guilty earlier this year.

According to court documents, in the summer of 2019, Kimmerly used Facebook to communicate with a 13-year-old whom he knew to be a minor.  In a series of Facebook Messenger communications, Kimmerly engaged in a dominant-submissive sexual relationship with the minor.  Among other inappropriate conduct, Kimmerly specifically requested that the minor take sexually explicit images of the minor’s own body and send those images to Kimmerly.  In 2010, Kimmerly sustained a juvenile conviction in Spokane County for Child Molestation in the First Degree, and was a registered sex offender under Washington law when he engaged in the conduct charged in the federal case.

Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, praised the victim’s bravery and commended the FBI’s sensitive and victim-centered approach to its investigation.  “Children must be safe from sexual predators, particularly those who have offended before,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  “In this case, the FBI’s Special Agents, victim and witness specialists, and forensic examiners all took care to put the specific needs of the 13-year-old minor at the forefront of their investigation.   Above all, I commend the victim on having the strength to come forward and shine a light on Mr. Kimmerly’s misconduct.  Protecting children from harm, especially sexual exploitation online and IRL (in real life), is critical to building a safe and strong Eastern Washington community.   I am delighted to note that even Mr. Kimmerly’s conduct has not succeeded in silencing or sidetracking the minor’s life; today, on the very day of sentencing, that minor is attending a college fair and looking to the future.”

“This is not the first time Mr. Kimmerly has demonstrated disregard for a vulnerable person,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Seattle Field Office.  “His conduct in this case was particularly egregious, given some of the challenges his victim was already facing.  I applaud the work of our investigators and victim advocates, as well as our colleagues at the United States Attorney’s Office, for standing up for people who deserve support, not victimization.”

This case was pursued as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the United States Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals, who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. The Project Safe Childhood Initiative (“PSC”) has five major components:

· Integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases, and to identify and rescue children;

· Participation of PSC partners in coordinated national initiatives;

· Increased federal enforcement in child pornography and enticement cases;

· Training of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents; and

· Community awareness and educational programs.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”

This case was investigated by the Spokane Resident Office of the FBI, with significant assistance from the Spokane Police Department.  The case was prosecuted by David M. Herzog, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. 

2:20-CR-00013-TOR


Prolific Fraudster Sentenced To Statutory Maximum Federal Sentence
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 05/18/22 4:28 PM

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Charice Unruh, 42, of Spokane, Washington, was sentenced today in federal court in Spokane.  Senior Judge Wm. Fremming Nielsen sentenced Unruh to 48 months in federal prison, the highest sentence available under federal law.  Judge Nielsen also sentenced Unruh to another year of incarceration, to be served concurrently, because she committed this crime while already on federal supervised release for her prior criminal conduct.  Judge Nielsen also imposed 48 months of supervised release, to begin running when Unruh is released from custody.

In February 2022, Unruh pleaded guilty to Unlawful Use of the United States Mails, after an investigation by the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”).  The investigation began when a keen Postal Inspector noticed a package addressed to Unruh while conducting a routine review of parcels coming into Spokane.  The Inspector recognized Unruh’s name from a previous USPIS investigation in which Unruh was convicted and sentenced to federal prison in connection with her role in an identity theft ring.  The package addressed to Unruh had several indicators consistent with packages that contain contraband, and the Inspector obtained a federal search warrant for it.  The search revealed methamphetamine in the package. 

The Postal Inspector removed the actual methamphetamine and replaced it with a non-contraband substance before setting up a controlled delivery of the parcel to Unruh.  Unruh retrieved the package and was immediately contacted by the Inspector. USPIS then executed a search warrant at Unruh’s Spokane-area apartment, and located multiple devices commonly used to engage in identity theft, as well as personal identification information for multiple individuals across the country.

In imposing the maximum available sentence, Judge Nielsen noted Unruh’s “disturbing” and “terrible” history with this type of crime. In her remarks to the Court, Unruh said she copes with life’s struggles by eating and using methamphetamine, and indicated that she was addicted to both.  Judge Nielsen agreed, but stated Unruh was also addicted to stealing other people’s identities and personal information.  Judge Nielsen noted that he did not believe Unruh properly considered or understood the impact of her actions on all the innocent people whose personal information she compromised.

“Sending drugs through the mail and stealing people’s identities are serious crimes that deserve serious punishment, as today’s sentence demonstrates,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “Our colleagues at USPIS work tirelessly to ensure not only the safe delivery of mail in this country, but to investigate identity theft, mailboxing, wire and bank fraud, and similar crimes. Identity theft costs victims money, time, stress, and can have lasting negative impacts on people’s lives.  Even if victims of identity theft are made whole by banks, credit card companies, and other institutions, the costs associated with credit card fraud, bank fraud, and identity theft are distributed back across the entire law-abiding population, increasing everyone’s cost of living.  I commend USPIS for their ongoing efforts to stymie both identity theft and the use of the U.S. mails to distribute drugs.”

“The U.S. Postal Service remains one of the most trusted entities in the country, and we work at every turn to protect the communities we serve.  Preventing identity theft remains one of our top priorities,” said Inspector in Charge Anthony Galetti.  “Every time I speak to a victim of identity theft, I am reminded of both the financial and mental toll this crime takes—innocent victims have to spend their time, energy, and resources to close fraudulent bank accounts, correct credit scores, and the like.  A bank may return a victim’s money, but a bank can never give a victim back all the hours it takes to undo an identity thief’s work.  We hope this sentencing brings justice to the victims of Unruh’s criminal activity and serves as a deterrent to others.   I thank the U.S. Border Patrol and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for their assistance; it is partnerships across agencies that allow cases like this to be solved.”

This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the United States Border Patrol and Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Assistant United States Attorney Caitlin A. Baunsgard of the Eastern District of Washington handled this matter on behalf of the United States. 

Case No.: 2:21-CR-108-WFN


Umpqua Bank Charitable Foundation Awards Community Grants to 71 Nonprofits (Photo)
Umpqua Bank - 05/18/22 11:22 AM
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First round 2022 grants support community-based nonprofits across five states

In its first of three community grant funding rounds in 2022, the Umpqua Bank Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization of Umpqua Bank, a subsidiary of Umpqua Holdings Corporation (NASDAQ: UMPQ), awarded 71 community grants to local nonprofits across its five-state footprint totaling $392,000.

Umpqua’s community grants support nonprofit organizations across Ore., Wash., Idaho, Calif. and Nev. and are part of the Bank’s overall foundation and corporate giving program that has invested $13.2 million since the Foundation was formed in 2014.

“Nonprofits are evolving their essential services to strengthen communities during challenging times, and we’re honored to partner with and invest in their critical programs,” shared Randy Choy, vice president of community giving and managing director of the Umpqua Bank Charitable Foundation. “We’re grateful for these nonprofits’ role in expanding access to economic opportunity for all our community members.”

These nonprofits, selected from among hundreds of applicants, in the first of three grant cycles in 2022, demonstrated a steadfast commitment to serving low-to-moderate-income populations in at least one of eight categories: family engagement and resiliency; financial competency; housing stability and home ownership; college, career or technical readiness; entrepreneurship and business expansion; vibrant and equitable neighborhoods; technical and digital connectivity; and small business support and financial guidance.

The next deadline for community grant applications is 5 p.m. PT on Fri., June 3, 2022. Learn more at www.UmpquaBank.com/Community.

The following recipients received grants between $5,000-10,000:

OREGON

OrganizationCounty
Adelante MujeresWashington
Boys & Girls Club of the Umpqua ValleyDouglas
Boys and Girls Clubs of Bend, Inc. Deschutes
Central Latino AmericanoLane
Community Lending WorksLane
Corvallis Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc.Lane
Eastern Oregon Regional Arts Council, Inc.Union
Free GeekMultnomah
Impact NWMultnomah
Junior Achievement of Oregon and SW WashingtonMultnomah
Northwest Housing Alternatives, Inc. Clackamas
Ophelia's PlaceLinn
Oregon Community SolutionsLincoln
Providence Community Health FoundationJackson
Rural Development Initiatives, Inc.Polk
Schoolhouse SuppliesMultnomah
SE WorksMultnomah
SMART ReadingBaker
The Children’s Book BankMultnomah
The ContingentMultnomah
YWCA of Greater PortlandWashington

WASHINGTON

OrganizationCounty
ADA Developers AcademyKing
Boys and Girls Club of the Olympic PeninsulaClallam
Boys and Girls Clubs of Snohomish CountySnohomish
Ellensburg Downtown AssociationKittitas
Family Promise of Skagit ValleySkagit
Girl Scouts of Western WashingtonKing
Global NeighborhoodSpokane
Habitat for Humanity International, Inc. (Lewis/Clarkston)Asotin
Habitat for Humanity International, Inc. (Tacoma/Pierce)Pierce
Interfaith Hospitality Network (Family Promise of Spokane)Spokane
Junior Achievement of WashingtonFranklin
Ke Kukui FoundationClark
Kitsap Regional Library FoundationKitsap
Mary’s Place SeattleKing
Overlake Service League (Bellevue LifeSpring)King
Pizza KlatchThurston
Summer SearchKing
The Trail YouthKing
Vamos Outdoors ProjectWhatcom
YouthCareKing

CALIFORNIA

OrganizationCounty
Best Buddies International, Inc.Sacramento
Boys and Girls Clubs of the North ValleyButte
Center for Human ServicesStanislaus
College TrackSacramento
Community Action Partnership of Orange CountyOrange
Diablo Valley College FoundationContra Costa
Financial Beginnings CaliforniaMarin
FOTC (Friends of the Children) Los AngelesLos Angeles
Freemont Adult and Continuing Education (FACE)Alameda
Immigrant Legal Resource CenterSanta Clara
Junior Achievement of Southern CaliforniaOrange
Lime FoundationSonoma
North Marin Community ServicesMarin
Opportunity Junction, Inc.Contra Costa
Orange County Community Housing CorpOrange
Project Hope AllianceOrange
San Diego Center for ChildrenSan Diego
Shelter Providers of Orange County, Inc. (HomeAid)Orange
StandUp For KidsOrange
Thomas House Temporary ShelterOrange
Together We Rise CorporationLos Angeles
Yuba Sutter Economic Development CorporationSutter
YWCA Berkeley/OaklandAlameda
Zero8Hundred, Inc.San Diego

IDAHO

OrganizationCounty
Backyard Harvest Inc. Latah
The Jesse Tree of IdahoAda

NEVADA

OrganizationCounty
Nevada HAND, Inc.Clark
Arts For All NevadaWashoe
Junior Achievement of Northern NevadaWashoe
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northern NevadaWashoe


About Umpqua Bank
Umpqua Bankheadquartered in Roseburg, Ore., is a subsidiary of Umpqua Holdings Corporation, and has locations across Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada. Umpqua Bank has been recognized for its innovative customer experience and banking strategy by national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Fast Company and CNBC. The company has been recognized for eight years in a row on FORTUNE magazine's list of the country's "100 Best Companies to Work For," and was recently named by The Portland Business Journal the Most Admired Financial Services Company in Oregon for the sixteenth consecutive year. In addition to its retail banking presence, Umpqua Bank also owns Financial Pacific Leasing, Inc., a nationally recognized commercial finance company that provides equipment leasing and financial services to businesses. 




Attached Media Files: 2022-05/6798/154694/Umpqua_Bank_vertical-logo_CMYK_DarkGreen_large.jpg

Tue. 05/17/22
Recidivist Drug Trafficker Sentenced To More Than 11 Years In Federal Prison
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 05/17/22 2:58 PM

Moses Lake and Yakima, Washington – On May 11, 2022, Chief United States District Judge Stanley A. Bastian sentenced Reymundo Garcia, 59, of Ephrata, Washington, to 135 months of imprisonment, to be followed by a five-year term of court supervision after he is released from federal prison.  In 2021, Garcia pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of pure methamphetamine.  As part of his plea agreement, Garcia also agreed to forfeit any interest in his ranch, which he used to facilitate his drug trafficking conduct by providing a location for both drug dealing and active drug use.

According to information disclosed during court proceedings, Garcia was a member of a drug trafficking organization operating out of Moses Lake, Washington, and Grant County.  During the course of an investigation by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force in the Tri-Cities, law enforcement officers seized multiple pounds of methamphetamine, several hundred fentanyl-laced pills, heroin, and numerous stolen firearms and ammunition.  Garcia engaged in this serious drug-dealing conduct after having been convicted in federal court on two prior occasions for drug trafficking and firearms possession. Chief Judge Bastian noted Garcia’s history of drug trafficking and that selling methamphetamine and heroin has been Garcia’s primary way of life.  As a result, Chief Judge Bastian imposed what he described as “forced retirement” from this criminal conduct to protect the community from Garcia’s drug dealing and facilitation of drug use. 

“Strong partnerships and collaboration between federal, state, and local law enforcement in central and southeastern Washington, are protecting our community and ensuring that repeat drug offenders stop distributing poison in our neighborhoods,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.  “Today’s sentence takes a serious, recidivist drug trafficker off the streets and sends a clear message to others who might choose to engage in similar activity: we are committed to ensuring a safe and strong Eastern Washington community, and this kind of conduct will be ferreted out, investigated, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“By using his residence to facilitate drug trafficking and his prior offenses, Mr. Garcia has shown that his criminal activity is part of a long-term lifestyle,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle Field Office.  “The FBI commends the work of our investigating and prosecuting partners to protect our neighborhoods for law-abiding citizens and remove these dangerous drugs from our communities.”

This case was part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF. 

This case was investigated by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force in Tri-Cities, Washington, in cooperation with the police departments of Moses Lake, Kennewick, Richland, and Pasco, and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Washington Department of Corrections.  This case was prosecuted by Stephanie Van Marter and Brian M. Donovan, Assistant United States Attorneys for the Eastern District of Washington.

4:20-CR-6002-SAB-3


Spokane Resident Pleads Guilty to Fraudulently Obtaining More Than $50,000 in COVID-19 Relief Funds
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 05/17/22 2:57 PM

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Roshon Edward Thomas, 52, of Spokane, Washington, has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining more than $50,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.  This case is part of the COVID-19 Relief Fraud Strike Force launched by the U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier this year.  Senior Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson accepted Thomas’ guilty plea and set sentencing for August 16, 2022, in Spokane. 

On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act.  The CARES Act provided a number of programs through which eligible small businesses could request and obtain relief funding intended to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic for small and local businesses.  One such program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, provided low interest loans that could be deferred until the conclusion of the pandemic to provide “bridge” funding for small businesses to maintain their operations during shutdowns and other economic circumstances caused by the pandemic.  

“COVID-19 relief programs were designed to lift up our community during crisis, and due to the number of people and businesses that requested funding, some deserving small businesses were not able to obtain funding to keep their businesses in operation,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We created the COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force because combatting pandemic-related fraud and holding those accountable who abused these programs is critical to the strength and safety of our community in Eastern Washington.  The Strike Force works to ensure that limited resources are used to protect our local small businesses and the critical jobs and services that they provide for the community.” 

In February 2022, U.S. Attorney Waldref and the U.S. Attorney’s Office began working with federal law enforcement agencies to create and launch a COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force that would leverage partnerships between different agencies to aggressively investigate and prosecute fraud against COVID-19 relief programs in Eastern Washington.  The Strike Force consists of agency representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, General Services Administration OIG, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Energy OIG, Department of Homeland Security OIG, and others.  Cases investigated and prosecuted by the Strike Force have resulted in numerous indictments, criminal prosecutions, and civil penalties.   

According to court documents and information disclosed during court proceedings, Thomas fraudulently obtained at least $54,900 in COVID-19 relief funding through two EIDL loans he obtained in July and August 2020 for a purported tattoo parlor and a clothing design company.  Thomas pled guilty to submitting false and fraudulent claims to the United States, and admitted to using false and fraudulent information to obtain EIDL funding for both companies.  The charge carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison. 

“I commend the stellar investigative work on these cases performed by the Strike Force and especially in this case by SBA OIG, TIGTA, FBI, and HSI,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute those who abuse and misuse COVID-19 relief funding, and to strengthen our communities by protecting our small and local businesses.” 

Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler H.L. Tornabene are prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.  

Case No. 2:22-CR-0035-RMP