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Spokane/East. Wash/North Idaho News Releases for Fri. Jun. 14 - 5:01 pm
Thu. 06/13/24
Spokane Property Management Company Agrees to Pay More Than $300,000 for Fraudulently Claiming Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Rent Assistance During COVID-19 Pandemic
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 06/13/24 10:04 AM

Spokane, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington announced All Star Property Management, LLC (All Star), a property management company located in Spokane, and Arlin Jordan, have agreed to pay $329,196 to resolve claims they falsely and fraudulently claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent assistance intended to benefit struggling renters during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress established an Emergency Rent Assistance program to provide funds through local and tribal governments to benefit struggling renters who had fallen behind on rent due to unemployment or other hardship.  In Washington, the program was known as the Treasury Rent Assistance Program (T-RAP).  Under T-RAP, landlords or property management companies could apply for T-RAP federal funding for a tenant’s past due and projected unpaid rent.  As a material condition of receiving federal funds, landlords were required to certify that the information included in the T-RAP application, including the rent amounts, were truthful and accurate, and to certify compliance with material T-RAP program requirements.  Landlords were further required to apply any funds received for a particular tenant to that tenant’s balance.

According to court documents, during the relevant time period, All Star was a property management company, owned by Gieve Parker, that managed rental properties on behalf of landlords in Spokane, including several properties owned by Arlin Jordin.  Jordin was currently serving a prison sentence at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, Washington, for drugging and raping a tenant, but Jordan continued to own and collect income from Spokane properties managed by All Star, for which All Star and Jordin split the rental income. 

“All-Star Property Management, Ms. Parker, and Mr. Jordin used false and fraudulent information as part of a scheme targeting precious and limited rent assistance funds. As a result, they lined their pockets with money that should have been used to keep people in a safe, secure, affordable home during a deadly pandemic,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Landlords and property management companies need to play by the rules. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who abuse critically important housing support programs.”

As All Star Property admitted in the Settlement Agreement, All Star Property and Parker certified and submitted T-RAP applications that contained inaccurate information, including, inflated monthly rental amounts, owed rent money for months when the residents were not living at the property, and owed rent money for months where tenants were receiving rental assistance from outside organizations. This inaccurate information resulted in overpayment of federal emergency rental assistance funds for which All Star and Parker were not eligible.  With respect to rental properties managed by All Star Property for Jordin, a management fee was subtracted from received T-RAP funds and retained by All Star Property, and the remaining received T-RAP funds were paid to Jordin.  The result of which was that Jordin received overpayment of T-RAP funds that he was not otherwise entitled to.

United States Attorney Waldref further stated that, “Importantly, this case came out of Washington’s right-to-counsel program for indigent renters facing eviction.  Equal access to justice in eviction defense is helping shine a light on these fraudulent practices in ways that was not possible before this important program existed. We will continue working with community and housing rights organizations like the Northwest Justice Project to hold landlords accountable when they put profits before tenant’s rights.” 

This case was originally brought by the Northwest Justice Project, Washington’s largest legal aid organization, on behalf of Krystal Jeffries, a former tenant in a property owned by Jordin and managed by All Star.  Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers may file an action under seal in federal court. The United States investigates the allegations and determines whether to intervene in the action.  Under the False Claims Act, the United States may recover up to three times the damages caused by the Defendant, plus additional penalties for each false claim or statement.  Over the past decade, False Claims Act recoveries in the Eastern District of Washington have exceeded $400 million.  If the United States obtains a recovery, the whistleblower is generally able to share in a portion of the recovery.  Here, Relator Krystal Jeffries will recover more than $68,000 of the settlement amount, plus additional attorney fees of $18,660 recovered by the Northwest Justice Project. 

A video statement from U.S. Attorney Waldref can be viewed here. 

Assistant United States Attorneys Jake Brooks and Dan Fruchter prosecuted this case on behalf of the United States.  The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Spokane Resident Office. 




Attached Media Files: 2024-06/6857/173012/U.S.Krystal_Jeffries_v_All_Star_Property_Mangement_LLC_222-cv-00067-MKD_Signed_Settlement_Agreement.pdf

Umpqua Bank 2024 Business Barometer: U.S. Middle Market Optimism Surges, While Small Businesses Proceed Cautiously (Photo)
Umpqua Bank - 06/13/24 9:00 AM
Umpqua Bank
Umpqua Bank
http://www.flashalertnewswire.net/images/news/2024-06/6798/172998/thumb_New_Logo_1.png
  • Middle Market: Optimism soars to 68% and key growth indicators reach six-year high
  • Small Business: Mood and plans hover near pandemic-era lows, even as recession fears subside 

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore., (June 13, 2024) – Umpqua Bank, a subsidiary of Columbia Banking System, Inc. (Nasdaq: COLB), today released the findings of its annual Business Barometer, an in-depth study into the mood, mindset and strategic priorities of small and middle market businesses across the U.S. For the first time in its six-year history, the study shows a widening gap between the outlook and plans of middle market companies and small businesses. Middle market optimism and key growth indicators have surged to six-year highs, while small businesses proceed cautiously as they manage persistent impacts of higher costs for goods and capital.

Since 2019, middle market companies (defined as $10M--$500M in annual revenue) are consistently more optimistic and ready to make a variety of strategic investments than smaller businesses. However, the difference between the two sectors’ optimism—which had been fairly narrow—widened sharply in 2024. This year, 68% of middle market companies rate the economic outlook as excellent or good compared to just 29% of small businesses.

According to Umpqua Bank President Tory Nixon, middle market companies are poised to accelerate strategic investments and plans after a season of caution, while small businesses are even more inclined this year to hold steady as margins remain tight.

“It’s a tale of two economies right now,” said Nixon. “While businesses of all sizes have proven resilient during a remarkable period of uncertainty and disruption, middle market companies have adapted especially well to the economic pressures of the past couple years. They are poised to move forward with the most confidence we've seen since our study began.”

Notable findings from this year’s Business Barometer include the following: 

Growing Middle Market Optimism Sparks Plans for Growth

  • Nearly 7 in 10 middle market companies rank the current economy favorably, surpassing a majority for the first time and 22 points higher than last year. In the next 12 months, more companies than in any previous study expect demand for products and services to increase (70%) and greater profitability (60%). They are also more likely than ever to invest in digitization (88%), finance expansion plans (65%), expand their real estate footprint (60%), add employees (54%) and consider acquiring (52%) or merging (43%) with another business.

Economic Divide Widens Between Middle Market and Small Businesses

  • In contrast to the middle market, small businesses are less optimistic than they’ve been since 2020. Though fewer list recession as a top concern this year (33%), inflation concerns spiked again after declining in 2023. Fewer than ever expect increased demand for goods or services (43%), and expectations for profitability growth also dipped to the lowest level in four years (38%). Small businesses’ current mood is reflected in more limited plans for the next 12 months: fewer than in the last three years are likely to add employees (28%), finance expansion (25%), expand their real estate (23%), make significant changes to products or services (33%), or invest in tools that protect payment systems (40%) and improve efficiency (57%).
  • “Middle market companies have the scale and capital to grow in today’s market. More of them are growth-minded than last year and investing in AI, automation and sophisticated tools to safeguard their operations and customers,” said Richard Cabrera, Head of Commercial Banking at Umpqua Bank. “With fewer resources and tighter margins, smaller enterprises have shifted more of their attention to managing the prolonged financial challenges and risks associated with elevated interest rates and inflation.”

Middle Market Companies Are Rapidly Embracing Generative AI

  • Nearly 8 in 10 middle market companies report either moving forward quickly to implement the technology across their organization (42%) or for at least a few specific tasks or functions (36%). They are also prioritizing adding personnel with generative AI experience, with 86% likely to hire for the skillset in the next 12 months. Investing in AI is also a top strategic priority (56%), which ranks first across 10 other investment options. A strong majority believe AI is having, or will have in the next 12 months, a significant impact on profitability (70%), acceleration of new products (69%), productivity (72%) and their competitive advantage (71%).
  • Small businesses are also adopting generative AI, albeit more slowly, with 28% prioritizing broad implementation or more targeted use across a few tasks.

A Majority of Middle Market Companies Bring Manufacturing and Supply Chains Back to U.S.

  • While supply chain impacts of the past few years have eased significantly for all businesses, most middle market companies continue looking for new routes and partners. In the last 12 months, 51% have moved manufacturing or supply chains back to the U.S., continuing the onshoring acceleration noted last year. Another 73% with operations abroad are likely to move or shift them elsewhere in the year ahead.

Middle Market Companies Safeguard Against Cyber-Attacks and Real-Time Fraud

  • Cybersecurity continues to be a top priority for middle market companies: 41% were the victim or target of a cyberattack in the last year. More than 8 in 10 are likely to invest in financial tools to protect payments systems in the next 12 months. More than 6 in 10 now leverage instant payment technology. Of those, 93% have or are planning to implement corresponding safeguards to protect against real-time fraud. Instant payment adoption rates for small businesses stand at 43%, with 66% of these having already implemented or planning to implement corresponding safeguards in the next year.

Small Business Delays, Middle Market Accelerates Decision-Making Ahead of Election

  • Small and middle market businesses are responding differently to the upcoming congressional and presidential elections in November. Nearly half of middle market companies say they are expediting key decisions before elections, with only 13% delaying them. Meanwhile, small businesses are more likely to delay (23%) than accelerate (14%) key decisions, with more than half indicating no impact on decision-making.
  • Businesses choosing to delay decisions, regardless of size, are most likely to postpone long-term strategic plans (63%), expansion plans (40%) and hiring (39%).

###

Methodology

On behalf of Umpqua Bank, DHM Research conducted an online survey of 1,200 owners, executives, and financial decision-makers at U.S. small and middle market businesses during April 22—May 2, 2024. Of middle market respondents, 22% are minority-owned businesses, while 19% of small business respondents are certified woman-owned and 15% minority-owned. The margin of error is: ±2.8%. 

About Umpqua Bank 
Umpqua Bank is a subsidiary of Columbia Banking System, Inc. (Nasdaq: COLB), and a premier regional bank in the western U.S., with offices in Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. With over $50 billion of assets, Umpqua Bank combines the resources, sophistication and expertise of a national bank with a commitment to deliver superior, personalized service. The bank supports consumers and businesses through a full suite of services, including retail and commercial banking; Small Business Administration lending; institutional and corporate banking; equipment leasing; and wealth management. The bank’s corporate headquarters are located in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Learn more at: umpquabank.com.




Attached Media Files: Umpqua Bank , Positive Economic Outlook Over Time , Nearly Half of Middle Market Fast-Tracking Decision-Making Ahead of November Elections , Economic Optimism Rises Steadily with Business Size

Wed. 06/12/24
Toppenish Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Violent Armed Robbery
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 06/12/24 4:37 PM

Yakima, Washington - Chief United States District Judge Stanley A. Bastian sentenced Eduardo Valencia, age 42, of Toppenish, Washington, to 162 months in federal prison on charges of Robbery Affecting Commerce and Using, Carrying, or Brandishing a Firearm During a Crime of Violence. Valencia was convicted of those crimes on March 6, 2024, following a jury trial. Chief District Judge Bastian also imposed 5 years of federal supervision after Valencia is released from prison.

According to court documents and information disclosed at trial and sentencing, on November 18, 2020, Valencia and an accomplice walked into the La Milpa Market in Yakima, Washington. Valencia and the accomplice pulled out firearms and demanded money from the clerk, whom they threatened to kill. Valencia and the accomplice then ran behind the counter, fought with the clerk, and ultimately pistol-whipped the clerk.  Valencia and the accomplice ran out of the store with approximately $10,000. Both men were masked during the robbery, and Valencia was later identified through, among other things, DNA on a glove that he dropped during the fight with the clerk.

“All people in Eastern Washington deserve to be safe at work. Mr. Valencia’s violent robbery and assault on a store clerk caused lasting trauma that will continue even after this case concludes,” stated United States Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref. “My office is committed to safeguarding our neighborhoods and communities by aggressively prosecuting those who resort to violence.” 

“Mr. Valencia’s actions clearly warranted this sentence,” said ATF Seattle Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Blais. “Using a firearm in the commission of an already violent crime only further increases the danger to those involved, and to the public in general.”

This case was investigated by the ATF and Yakima Police Department. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Tom Hanlon. 


White Swan Woman Pleads Guilty to Murder on the Yakama Nation
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 06/12/24 9:19 AM

Yakima, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Tahsheena Stacy Sam, 35, of White Swan, Washington, pleaded guilty to Second Degree Murder in Indian Country for the murder of Destiny Lloyd, who was an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation. United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke accepted Sam’s guilty plea and scheduled a sentencing hearing for September 17, 2024, in Yakima, Washington.

In the plea agreement accepted by the court, and in information disclosed during court proceedings, on December 25, 2017, the victim, Destiny Lloyd, who was 23 years old at the time, was socializing with a group of friends. The Defendant, whom Lloyd did not know, also joined the group.  

Later that evening, Sam, and others who were with her, decided to rob Ms. Lloyd. The group drove to an area near Harrah Road and Marion Drain Road on the Yakama Nation Indian Reservation.  There, money was forcibly taken from Lloyd, and Lloyd was then left on the side of the road.

After the assault, members of the group became concerned that Lloyd might report the incident. They then drove back to where they left her and used a flashlight to follow her tracks in the snow. Sam found Lloyd. She then obtained a large wrench from another member of the group and used the wrench to strike Lloyd several times on the head. Sam and the others left Lloyd’s body where it was discovered by a passing motorist a few days later. 

“My heart breaks for the victim and her family. Ms. Lloyd’s loss leaves a hole that cannot ever be filled,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “This case involved a lengthy investigation and witnesses that were not always forthcoming with law enforcement.  Yet, the FBI and Yakama Nation Tribal Police remained undeterred and continued investigating this case – following available leads, which ultimately led to Ms. Sam.  While federal law enforcement often is unable to disclose to the public each step in an investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s office, FBI, and Yakama Nation have remained committed to securing justice for victims of violent crime, including for Ms. Lloyd and her family. We work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to pursue those who cause harm in our community and to address the root causes leading to the crisis of murdered or missing Indigenous people.” 

“It is hard to comprehend the wanton violence of this case,” said Kelly M. Smith, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle field office. “I am grateful that Ms. Sam has now taken responsibility for her role in Ms. Lloyd’s tragic death. Now the process of healing can begin for the loved ones of the victim. The FBI will continue working to ensure the safety of our state’s reservations.”

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Yakama Nation Tribal Police. It has been prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Todd Swensen, Timothy J. Ohms, and Ian Garriques.

Charges remain pending for a co-defendant in this case. Those charges are merely allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


Tue. 06/11/24
Sureno Gang Member Sentenced to 30 Years in Federal Prison for Murder on Yakama Nation Indian Reservation
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 06/11/24 2:09 PM

Yakima, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Jaime Herrera, age 29, of Granger, Washington, was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of Second-Degree Murder in Indian Country and one count of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Indian Country. United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke imposed a sentence of 360-month imprisonment to be followed by 5 years of supervised release. Judge Dimke imposed the 360-month sentence to run consecutively to a 240-month sentence for another murder Herrera committed in Yakima County. Herrera will serve a total of 600 months – or 50 years – in prison.

According to court documents and information presented at the sentencing hearing, on July 19, 2017, around 3:15 a.m., Herrera, who is a Sureno gang member and not affiliated with the Yakama Nation, was driving his SUV and pulled up alongside two men walking on the road between Garfield Elementary School and Garfield Park, in Toppenish, Washington, within the external boundaries of the Yakama Nation Indian Reservation. Herrera accused the pair of being traitors to the gang, pulled out a rifle and killed one of the men – an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation. The second man – who survived the shooting – is an enrolled member of the Nez Perce Tribe. 

While the investigation into the murder was ongoing, Herrera committed a second, unrelated homicide in the Yakima Valley – arranging an ambush and ultimately shooting the victim. Herrera was arrested shortly after the second murder, pleaded guilty in Washington State Court, and was sentenced to 240 months imprisonment in that case. 

“The victim in this case was a son, a brother, and a new father – his daughter, a toddler at the time of his death, is growing up without a father because of Mr. Herrera’s senseless act of violence. While even the lengthy sentence in this case cannot substitute for the tragic loss of life, today’s sentence demonstrates that those who victimize members of our community – and in particular persons who enter Tribal communities to commit violence– will be held accountable,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “As a result of today’s sentence, the Eastern District of Washington is safer and more secure. I am grateful for the dedication of the FBI and the Yakama Nation who worked closely with prosecutors in my office to hold a double murderer accountable for his actions.” 

“Senseless is the only word to describe this crime.” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “The violence Mr. Herrera displayed in this case, and subsequently in a separate case, indicates prison is where he belongs. I applaud the work of our investigators and partners who work so hard to make our state’s reservations safe for the people who live on them.”

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results. For more information about Project Safe Neighborhoods, please visit Justice.gov/PSN.

This case was investigated by the FBI and the Yakama Nation Tribal Police. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Earl Hicks and Michael Ellis. 


Yakima Man Sentenced to 16 Years in Federal Prison on Drug Trafficking Charges
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 06/11/24 1:33 PM

Yakima, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Jacob Rodney Penny, age 44, of Yakima, Washington, was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of Possession with Intent to Distribute 400 Grams or More of a Mixture or Substance Containing a Detectable Amount of Fentanyl and one count of Felon in Possession of a Firearm. United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke imposed a sentence of 192 months imprisonment to be followed by 5 years of supervised release.

According to court documents and information presented at the sentencing hearing, on May 13, 2022, the victim of a residential burglary saw a Craigslist Ad for ski equipment that matched items that had been stolen. Law enforcement contacted the seller and asked to purchase the skis. After agreeing to price, the seller said his friend would deliver the skis to the Wolf Den in Wapato, Washington and would be driving a newer white Chevy Tahoe. At the arranged time, Penny arrived at the location, driving a white Tahoe. Law enforcement conducted a traffic stop and detained Penny, who told investigators he knew he was being detained because of the “stupid skis.” Penny also stated he was making the delivery because the skis did not fit in his friend’s vehicle. 

Law enforcement executed a search warrant on the Tahoe, locating four large bags that contained hundreds of fentanyl pills, two smaller bags containing between 100 and 200 fentanyl pills each, a small quantity of methamphetamine, a scale with drug residue, two 9mm pistols, and $2,600 in cash. 

“I am grateful for the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office for their tremendous investigation in this case.  What began as an investigation into a set of stolen skis, led to the discovery of deadly fentanyl, which could have claimed the lives of those, who call the Yakima Valley home,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “My office, working with our law enforcement partners, are committed to stopping the spread of illicit narcotics in Eastern Washington. By working together, we can make our communities safer and stronger for everyone.” 

“Sometimes an unexpected break leads to success,” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “In this case, a property crime led to sending a drug trafficker to federal prison. The FBI and our partners will continue working to keep these dangerous drugs off the streets and out of our communities.”

This case was investigated by the FBI. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Hanlon. 


Mon. 06/10/24
U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Washington Commemorates LGBTQ+ Pride Month
U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash. - 06/10/24 1:28 PM

Spokane, Washington - For the month of June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington (EDWA) will honor the vast contributions and important history of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community during LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

The first presidential proclamation recognizing Pride Month occurred in 1999. On January 20, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order 13988, directing the heads of every federal agency to take steps to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, both in the federal government itself and in its enforcement of anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII.

“The enforcement and defense of civil rights for everyone is at the core of the Justice Department’s mission. My office is committed to protecting the rights of all individuals to live free from discrimination and persecution based on who they are or whom they love,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “The members of the LGBTQ+ community are our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. We recognize their past struggles to receive equal treatment under the law and will support and defend their efforts to secure justice now and in the future.

In 1969, after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City, members of the LGBTQ+ community engaged in several days of protest of discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. The following year, activists organized the first annual Pride March on June 28, 1970, a several-thousand-person march from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park commemorating the riots and protesting discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. Although not the first demonstration against LGBTQ+ discrimination, that Pride March marked the beginning of the galvanizing force that became a national civil rights movement to demand equal rights and protections for LGBTQ+ citizens under the law, ultimately culminating in the creation of the first gay pride parades in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. Since 1970, the LGBTQ+ community has celebrated every June as Pride Month and held annual Pride Marches in a growing number of cities, including internationally.

On June 8, 2024, Members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington joined with hundreds of others by marching in the Spokane Pride Parade. U.S. Attorney Waldref added, “This was the first time my office joined to march in the Spokane Pride Parade. It is an honor to lead an office committed to enforcing civil rights and ensuring liberty and justice for all.”