U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash.
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Pictured from left to right: Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Frieda Zimmerman, Detective Brian Cestnik Spokane Police Department, FBI Special Agent Ryan Butler, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Fruchter, Spokane PD Sargent Zachary Dahle, Assistant U.S. Attorne
Pictured from left to right: Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Frieda Zimmerman, Detective Brian Cestnik Spokane Police Department, FBI Special Agent Ryan Butler, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Fruchter, Spokane PD Sargent Zachary Dahle, Assistant U.S. Attorne
United Against Hate Pilot Program in Eastern Washington Paves the Way for National Roll Out (Photo) - 06/23/22

Spokane, Washington – U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref announced today the accomplishments of her office’s pilot outreach program, United Against Hate, which directly connects the United States Attorney’s Office and its local and federal law enforcement partners with a diverse group of community organizations to increase community understanding and reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents. This community outreach program seeks to address the chronic underreporting of hate crimes and hate incidents and build strong relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve to more effectively share resources and respond to potential unlawful acts of hate.  

U.S. Attorney Waldref announced the Eastern District’s engagement in the United Against Hate program in March of 2022. In the last few months, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has successfully partnered with several community organizations and houses of worship to discuss how law enforcement responds to reports of hate crimes, hate incidents, and unlawful discrimination. Presenters at United Against Hate events include Assistant United States Attorneys, detectives and crime analysts from the Spokane Police Department, and special agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The United Against Hate programs have taken place throughout Eastern Washington, including at a Jewish Temple in Spokane, an Islamic Center in Pullman, and a Sikh Temple in Eastern Washington. 

Based in part on the success of the United Against Hate program in Eastern Washington, on May 18, 2022, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke formally announced the Department of Justice’s nationwide rollout of the program.   U.S. Attorney Waldref was selected to present at the national rollout of United Against Hate today.  Yesterday, at that rollout event U.S. Attorney Waldref encouraged other districts around the country to follow Eastern Washington’s lead in proactively reaching out to houses of worship, minority communities, and community organizations on the critical issue of combatting hate crimes and hate incidents.

Law enforcement has a vital role in protecting the public from hate-motivated offenses.,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  “By encouraging the reporting of hate crimes and hate incidents, the United Against Hate program provides law enforcement the tools to more effectively combat the uptick in hate-based violence. The underreporting of hate crimes and hate incidents allows perpetrators to go undetected and un-prosecuted, which allows them to continue to spread their unacceptable messages of hate, fear, and intimidation.  The United Against Hate program is designed to ensure that all members of our community feel safe and know that they live in a place where acts of hate will not be tolerated.” 

“Hate crimes have no place in our community,” said Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl.  “The Spokane Police Department is pleased to partner with the US Attorney’s Office in educating the public about what constitutes a hate crime, how to report one, and how to combat such crimes.

Hate crimes are particularly impactful not only because of the harm they cause directly to the victims, but because they also take a substantial emotional toll on victims, families, loved ones and our community.  SPD is dedicated to holding accountable those responsible for crimes fueled by prejudice and bias,” said Chief Meidl.

Each United Against Hate presentation discusses vital pieces of information, which include:

  • What constitute hate crimes or hate incidents and encouraging the public to always report them to law enforcement
  • How to report a hate crime or hate incident to law enforcement. For example, to call 911 if there is a crime in progress or any potential immediate threat or danger. Otherwise hate crimes and hate incidents can also be reported to an individual’s local Crime Check (in Spokane, 509-456-2233) or by reporting it to the FBI (by calling 509-458-8100 or submitting tips to www.fbi.gov/tips).
  • Even when prosecuting a hate crime or hate incident is not viable, the data from such reporting to law enforcement is essential both to investigating and prosecuting related hate crimes by the same individual or group and in determining where, when, and how to best deploy law enforcement resources, such as additional patrols, to help detect and deter hate crimes.

Community members who attended the United Against Hate presentations participate in group discussions and activities and provide the law enforcement panelists with their questions and concerns.  Additionally, when appropriate, for United Against Hate presentations in Spokane County the U.S. Attorney’s Office has joined with the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force (SCHRTF), a private non-profit organization.  SCHRTF’s Hate Reporting Tool Kit is an online tool for reporting hate crimes and hate incidents and includes an option to report anonymously. The SCHRTF Hate Reporting Tool Kit is found at www.ReportHateBias.org

“The Spokane County Human Rights Task Force created its Hate Reporting Tool to determine the extent of hate activity occurring in our county in order to provide victim support and targeted outreach programming.  The Hate Reporting Tool is simple to access and simple to use,” said Board member, Hershel Zellman.  “We are excited to join with law enforcement in promoting the United Against Hate program and emphasize that the information provided through the Hate Reporting Tool is treated confidentially by the Task Force and has no connection to law enforcement,” said Past-President, Dean Lynch.   

“My office is thrilled with the excellent reception and impact that our United Against Hate efforts have already had in making our communities in Eastern Washington safer and stronger. These presentations offer panelists and community members the opportunity to share stories, concerns, and understand our shared values for safe neighborhoods to raise our families and the freedom to express religious beliefs without fear,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  Community members and leaders who are interested in exploring whether to host a United Against Hate presentation are encouraged to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Team at USAWAE.CivilRights@usdoj.gov or by leaving a voice mail at (509) 835-6306.

“We cannot bring the full force of the people’s power against hate crimes, hate incidents, and other civil rights violations without individuals being given opportunities to come forward. We encourage anybody in our community to report these concerns. We are all partners in keeping each other safe and building a stronger community that reflects our values of hope and belonging where we protect each other and have a joint mission to pursue justice for all,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s online complaint form is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-edwa/edwa-civil-rights-webpage.The form can be emailed to USAWAE.CivilRights@usdoj.gov, or concerns can be shared by leaving a voice mail for our Civil Rights Team at (509) 835-6306.

Spokane Man Sentenced To 7 Years for Second Child Pornography Offense - 06/21/22

Spokane, Washington – Senior United States District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson sentenced Brian D. Knight, 47, of Spokane, Washington, to 7 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography, the highest sentence available under the terms of Knight’s plea agreement.  Judge Peterson also ordered Knight to serve 10 years on federal supervision after he is released from prison.  Knight pleaded guilty late last year.

According to court documents and proceedings, undercover FBI agents downloaded numerous images of child pornography from Knight in 2019 before executing a search warrant at his residence in Spokane. Agents found numerous digital devices containing child pornography that Knight appeared to have downloaded between 2017 and 2019.  Knight also sustained a prior conviction for possession of child pornography under Washington law in 2009 after a minor girl disclosed that Knight had sexually abused her. In that case, Knight was sentenced to 14 months in state custody.  In addition to having a prior child pornography conviction, Knight had also bookmarked multiple child rape stories, including one called “baby Sex Is the Best.tx.” He also had an “incest/underage sex permission form” on one of his devices.  Knight also created – under an alias – a foundation called “Fish4Kids,” which was allegedly designed to give aquariums to autistic children.  This purported foundation never actually provided any aquariums, but presumably would have put Knight in contact with autistic children. He also lied to law enforcement about his child pornography conduct, wiped his devices to hide the true volume of his child pornography collection, and had prior convictions for domestic violence assaults, interference with domestic violence reporting, and cyberstalking.

In imposing the highest sentence available under the terms of Knight’s guilty plea, Judge Peterson described his conduct as predatory and rejected defense arguments that he should receive a lower sentence because of certain medical ailments.  The Court also expressed concern about Knight’s prior convictions and potential lack of commitment to sex offender treatment opportunities.

Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, commended the FBI’s investigation.  “All  children should be safe from sexual predators, particularly those who have offended before,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  “Protecting children from harm, especially online exploitation, remains a priority of my office and is critical to building a safe and strong Eastern Washington community.”

“This is not the first time Mr.  Knight has demonstrated disregard for the law and acted on his sexual interest in children,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Seattle Field Office.  “The materials our agents recovered from his devices were chilling, and show why it is so important that the FBI continues to relentlessly seek out child pornography defendants.”

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.  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, and was prosecuted by David M. Herzog, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. 

2:20-CR-00068-RMP

California Mortgage Lender Agrees To Pay More Than $1 Million To Resolve Fraud Allegations - 06/17/22

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that American Financial Network, Inc., a mortgage lender based in Brea, California, has agreed to pay $1,037,145 to resolve allegations that it improperly and fraudulently originated government-backed mortgage loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), a component of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

“FHA-backed mortgages are a critical resource for first-time homebuyers, moderate-income borrowers, and families who have suffered negative credit due to the pandemic or other events out of their control,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  “By improperly originating ineligible mortgages, lenders take advantage of the limited resources of the FHA program and unfairly pass the risk of loss onto the public.” 

Since at least December 2011, AFN has been a participant in FHA’s Direct Endorsement Program.  Through this program, a lender such as AFN is authorized to originate and approve mortgage loans to be insured by FHA without any prior review or approval by FHA. Lenders such as AFN are responsible for carefully underwriting the mortgage to make sure that it meets all FHA requirements.  Once a mortgage loan is insured by FHA, if the borrower defaults or is unable to repay the mortgage, the lender that holds the mortgage note can submit a claim for insurance benefits to FHA to cover its losses. 

The settlement resolves allegations that between December 2011 and March 2019, AFN knowingly underwrote certain FHA mortgages and approved for insurance certain mortgages that did not meet FHA requirements or qualify for insurance, resulting in losses to the United States when the borrowers defaulted on those mortgages.  The settlement further resolves allegations that AFN knowingly failed to perform quality control reviews that it was required to perform. 

This case began in March 2019 when a whistleblower, a former loan processor with AFN, filed a qui tam complaint under seal in federal court in Spokane.  When a whistleblower, or “relator,” files a qui tam complaint, the False Claims Act requires the United States to investigate the allegations and elect whether to intervene and take over the action or to decline to intervene and allow the relator to go forward with the litigation on behalf of the United States. The relator is generally able to then share in any recovery.  Pursuant to the settlement agreement, the relator in this case will receive $228,172 of the settlement, and will also recover her attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs. 

“Quality and affordable housing is a critical issue in Eastern Washington and across the nation,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  “Protecting the resources that support families who dream of purchasing their first home makes our community stronger. I commend the exceptional investigative work by Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General and HUD’s Office of Inspector General that holds accountable those who abuse housing programs.”

“HUD’s Office of Inspector General is committed to working with the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners to ensure that federal programs designed to help our nation’s most vulnerable are not abused,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Scott Tanchak.  “Today’s settlement demonstrates the Government’s commitment to protecting the integrity of HUD programs.”

“Investigations such as these help safeguard the integrity of the home loan approval process and protect vulnerable veterans from fraudulent lending practices,” said Special Agent in Charge Jason Root of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General’s Northwest Field Office. “The VA OIG thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington and HUD’s Office of Inspector General for their partnership in this joint investigation.”

The settlement was the result of a joint investigation conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, HUD’s Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Spokane Resident Office. 

Assistant United States Attorneys Tyler H.L. Tornabene and Dan Fruchter and Special Assistant United States Attorney Frieda K. Zimmerman handled this matter on behalf of the United States. The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only and there has been no determination of liability.

Case No.: 2:19-cv-00075-SAB

United States Attorney Waldref Joins Attorney General Garland In Recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day - 06/15/22

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, joined United States Attorney General Merrick B. Garland today in recognizing World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.

“From the Palouse to the Cascades, and from the small towns to the big cities, respect for our elders is a principle we can all live by in the Eastern District of Washington,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  “Having safe and strong communities means protecting our seniors, who can be among our most vulnerable—and are often the same people who have protected all of us when we have been vulnerable ourselves.” 

U.S. Attorney Waldref’s comments dovetailed with the comments of Attorney General Garland.  “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting and supporting the most vulnerable among us, including by advancing elder justice. Elder abuse, fraud, and neglect remain urgent problems in our country, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a new wave of exploitative practices targeted at seniors.  The Justice Department has worked to expand our capacity to prevent elder abuse, prosecute perpetrators of that abuse, and protect and support elderly survivors.”

The Attorney General also noted several DOJ initiatives designed to protect and enrich the lives of the Nation’s seniors.  “Our Elder Justice Initiative coordinates programmatic efforts to prevent and respond to elder abuse, including by developing training and resources for our partners at all levels of government and beyond.  Our grantmaking components have also funded the development of coordinated, multi-disciplinary approaches to advancing elder justice, including Multidisciplinary Teams.  In addition, Elder Justice Coordinators in each of our 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices nationwide are working to successfully prosecute cases of elder abuse, including by supporting our Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. The Strike Force, which was launched and is led by the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, brings together attorneys, agents, and analysts from across the federal government to disrupt and prosecute foreign-based fraud schemes that target American seniors.”

U.S. Attorney Waldref concluded by joining Attorney General Garland’s call for the United States to be a leader in the prevention of elder abuse: “On World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Department of Justice joins our partners across America and around the world in reaffirming our commitment to preventing and ending elder abuse in all of its forms.”

If you need assistance or to report elder abuse, please contact your local adult protective services agency through the Eldercare Locator or by call the helpline at 1-800-677-1116 Monday – Friday 9am - 8pm EST. To report elder fraud, please visit the FBI’s IC3 Elder Fraud Complaint Center or contact the dedicated National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833–FRAUD–11 or 833–372–8311 Monday – Friday, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm EST.

Noncitizen In Yakima County Sentenced To 15 Years In Federal Prison For Methamphetamine Trafficking And Child Exploitation - 06/07/22

Spokane, Washington – On June 3, 2022, United States District Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr., sentenced Lorenzo Jimenez Alanis, 47, of Mabton, Washington, to 15 years in federal prison for distributing methamphetamine, along with downloading and possessing a large collection of child pornography.  Judge Mendoza also ordered Alanis to serve five years of federal supervision after he is released from prison, although under current U.S. law, it is likely that Alanis will be removed from the United States after his release from custody. Alanis pleaded guilty earlier this year.

According to information disclosed in court documents and during proceedings, Alanis was a source of supply for pound level quantities of methamphetamine associated with a drug trafficking organization operating directly out of Mexico.  Alanis was arrested in a DEA Tri-Cities operation while he was delivering four pounds of methamphetamine.  A search warrant was executed at his home and additional quantities of methamphetamine, multiple firearms and indicia of drug trafficking were also seized.  When Alanis was arrested, officers searched his cellular telephone and discovered thousands of images and videos of children being sexually abused, tortured, and violated.  Troublingly, Alanis’ collection included images and videos depicting prepubescent children who were the same age as his own children and younger.  Alanis came to the United States unlawfully in 1992, when he was approximately 17-18 years of age, and has lived in the lower Yakima Valley since then.

“The wide scope of Mr. Alanis’ criminal conduct is staggering.  This case involved both large-scale methamphetamine dealing as well as downloading and collecting thousands of crime scene photos of minors being sexually abused,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.  “I commend the seamless communication and collaboration in this case between DEA, Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Investigations, the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in Richland, and our state and local partners—what began as a drug case concluded with a child exploitation offender behind bars for 15 years.  Whether it is illegal drugs or illicit images of children, law enforcement in the Eastern District will continue to seek out, investigate, and prosecute criminal conduct to keep the communities of Eastern Washington safe and strong.”

“Mr. Alanis used his direct connections with a Mexican drug trafficking organization to supply methamphetamine in Eastern Washington, and even more disturbing, possessed large amounts of child pornography,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Jacob D. Galvan, DEA Seattle Field Division. “The DEA, with its federal, state, and local partners, will relentlessly pursue individuals who seek to harm and exploit vulnerable individuals, especially children.”

“Mr. Alanis represented a triple threat to our community through his trove of videos depicting violent sexual abuse of children, distribution of methamphetamine, and firearms possession,” said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “I applaud the work of our federal and state law enforcement partners in Eastern Washington to address these critical threats and ensure that criminals like Mr. Alanis are brought to justice.”

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.  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 also 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 DEA Seattle Field Division, Tri-Cities Resident Office, United States Customs and Border Protection, METRO Drug Task Force, the Kennewick, Richland, West Richland, and Pasco Police Departments, Homeland Security Investigations, Tri-Cities Resident Office, and the ICAC Task Force.  The case was prosecuted by Stephanie A. Van Marter, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

4:20-CR-6042-SMJ-2

4:21-CR-6018-SMJ

Wapato Man Sentenced To 57 Months In Federal Prison After Killing Four People While Drunk Driving - 06/03/22

Yakima, Washington – On May 31, 2022, U.S. District Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr. sentenced Leland James Finley, 28, of Wapato, Washington, to 57 months in federal prison for Involuntary Manslaughter and Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury.  Judge Mendoza also ordered Finley to serve three years on federal supervision after he is released from prison.  Finley pleaded guilty to four counts of Involuntary Manslaughter and one count of Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury on November 23, 2021.

According to court documents, on May 7, 2019, at a little after 4:00 a.m., law enforcement officers responded to a crash scene at the intersection of U.S. Highway 97 and Larue Road, on the Yakama Nation Reservation.  The investigation revealed that Finley failed to stop at as stop sign on Larue Road and drove in front of a semi-tractor-trailer that had been travelling on the highway, causing the collision.  Four passengers in the Finley’s SUV were killed and a fifth was badly injured; multiple alcohol containers were recovered from inside the SUV and scattered around the scene.  A Yakama Nation Police Department Officer interviewed Finley after advising him of his rights, and Finley acknowledged that he and his passengers had been drinking beer and driving around.  Finley also admitted that he was the driver at the time of the crash.  Remarkably, Finley admitted that he saw the stop sign and the semi-tractor-trailer, but said that he just wanted to beat the truck through the intersection.  Lab results of Finley’s blood, which was drawn at a local hospital about five hours after the crash, showed the presence of alcohol, THC, metabolites of THC, cocaine, and metabolites of cocaine.

“Four people are dead.  No legal proceeding, no admission of guilt, no sentence can bring them back or truly heal the wounds Mr. Finley has caused their loved ones.  My office mourns with the victims’ families while we seek justice with our law enforcement partners.  We will continue to hold accountable those who engage in criminally reckless violence in our community,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.  “While it is a miracle that anyone survived that crash, this tragedy was as senseless as it was avoidable.  I call on every driver in Eastern Washington to learn the devastatingly obvious lesson from this case: do not drive while high or drunk.”

“This did not need to happen,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle office.  “It is 2022.  It is not a new concept that driving while impaired leads to devastating consequences, including in this case the deaths of four innocent people.  The only thing we can hope today is that others learn from Mr. Finley’s tragic decisions.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Yakama Nation Police Department, and the Washington State PatrolThe case was prosecuted by Michael Murphy, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. 

1:19-CR-02055-SMJ

Omak Man With Prior Felony Conviction Sentenced To 46 Months In Federal Prison For Violent Shooting On The Colville Indian Reservation - 06/03/22

Spokane, Washington – U.S. District Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr., sentenced Justin Dean Friedlander, 34, of Omak, Washington, to 46 months in federal prison for a shooting on July 4, 2021.  Judge Mendoza also imposed three years of federal supervised release and more than $20,000 in restitution.

Although the sentence he imposed was lower than the United States’ recommendation, Judge Mendoza emphasized that the shooting was “incredibly dangerous.”  Addressing Friedlander directly, Judge Mendoza stated, “You shot a person, leaving a scar” that the victim “will carry around for the rest of his life.”     

According to court documents, on the evening of July 4, 2021, Friedlander’s victim was spending time with his brother and a friend in Omak, Washington.  Friedlander, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, pulled up in a Dodge Durango, brandishing a .22 caliber long rifle.  After a short disagreement, Friedlander got upset and drove off.  Moments later, Friedlander reemerged at a nearby apartment complex.  Friedlander opened fire, sending a single gunshot toward the victim and his companions.  The bullet struck the victim in the back of his left leg and lodged in his knee.  Medical personnel determined that they could not remove the bullet without risking further injury to the victim. 

After the shooting, Friedlander drove to the 12 Tribes Casino in Omak, where the Colville Tribal Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation later located his Durango.  After obtaining a search warrant, Tribal Police and the FBI recovered several rounds of .22 caliber ammunition inside the Durango.  The firearm, which Friedlander apparently hid, was never recovered.  Surveillance video, from both shortly after the shooting and prior to Friedlander’s arrest, showed Friedlander removing items – including a long item consistent with a firearm – from the Durango and moving it into a different car.

“The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting violent offenders who threaten public safety anywhere in Eastern Washington,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.  “Native Americans experience some of the highest rates of violence in the country, which often compound other traumas that Indigenous people frequently suffer.  We will continue to address violent crime by ensuring that offenders are prosecuted to the fullest extent – both on Tribal land and elsewhere.” 

U.S. Attorney Waldref continued, “I am grateful for the Colville Department of Public Safety, the FBI, and all of our federal partners, who work together to investigate violent crime on the Colville Reservation.  Many violent crime cases, including this one, present unique challenges, including victims and witnesses who are sometimes hesitant to work with law enforcement.  While we continue to work every day to increase trust in law enforcement throughout Eastern Washington, I commend the dedicated agents, officers, prosecutors, and victim advocates, who devote their time and resources to seeking justice on behalf of victims and working together to keep our communities safe and strong.”

“Sadly, this case is another example of the increasing trend of violent incidents on the reservations in the Eastern District,” said Donald M. Voiret, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle Field Office. “We are committed to investigating these cases and strengthening our partnerships with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Tribal and local agencies to bring accountability to offenders and deter future criminal conduct.”

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Colville Tribal Police Department.  This case was prosecuted by Richard R. Barker, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

2:21-cr-00122-SMJ-1

Post Falls Woman Sentenced To 30 Months In Federal Prison After Cyberstalking Ex-Boyfriend And Setting His Home On Fire - 05/27/22

Spokane, Washington – Senior United States District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson sentenced Kimberly Ann Brischle, 56, of Post Falls, Idaho, to 30 months in federal prison for stalking an ex-boyfriend across state lines via the Internet.  Judge Peterson also ordered Brischle to pay more than $175,000 in restitution for the damages arising from a fire she started in her ex-boyfriend’s home. Brischle will also serve three years of federal supervised release after she gets out of prison.  Brischle pleaded guilty in May 2022 and has been in federal custody since July 2021. 

According to court documents, Brischle began sending her ex-boyfriend a series of threatening text messages in April 2021. The next day, Brischle broke into her ex-boyfriend’s home in Spokane, while her ex-boyfriend was away on business.  Brischle damaged property in the home and started a fire in a bedroom closet.  The Spokane Fire Department responded to extinguish the fire, and investigators determined that the fire had been set intentionally.  For the next several months, Brischle used online applications to obscure her identity while she continued to send her ex-boyfriend threatening and harassing texts and emails.  In one message, she claimed to have paid another person to torture and mutilate him and to kill his dog.

“In the information age, Internet stalking has become a significant problem that crosses state and international boundaries and subjects innocent people to serious harassment,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.  “As this case demonstrates, the line between online activity and real-world consequences can become blurry for some—and frankly, it is a miracle and a relief that no one was hurt by the fire in this case.  Fortunately, through the collaborative work of ATF, the Spokane Police Department, the Spokane Fire Department, and the Kalispel Tribal authorities, law enforcement was able to hold the defendant accountable and prevent her from causing further damage and harassment.  The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting our communities from cybercrime and physical violence to keep Eastern Washington safe and strong.”

“Arson is a heinous crime that has broad impacts, not only on those who are directly affected, but because of the risk it presents to the community as a whole,” said ATF Seattle Field Division Special Agent in Charge Jonathan T. McPherson.  “This sentence should deter anyone who contemplates engaging in the destructive, cowardly act of setting someone’s home on fire.”

This case was investigated by Spokane Resident Office of the ATF, with significant assistance from the Spokane Fire Department Special Investigations Unit, the Spokane Police Department, and the Kalispel Tribal Police. The case was prosecuted by Timothy J. Ohms, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.  The case is number 2:21-CR-0093-RMP.