U.S. Attorney's Office - Eastern Dist. of Wash.
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Spokane Tribal Member Found Guilty of Assaulting His Partner with a Knife and Attempting to Suffocate Her - 04/10/24

Spokane, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that a jury returned a verdict on April 9, 2024, following the trial of 40-year-old Marvin Samson Butterfly. Butterfly was found guilty of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon in Indian Country, Assault of an Intimate Partner and Dating Partner by Suffocating and Attempting to Suffocate in Indian Country, and Attempted Witness Tampering.

Evidence introduced at trial established that on September 16, 2023, officers with the Spokane Tribal Police Department were called to a home in Ford, Washington for a reported domestic assault. The victim told officers that Butterfly, who is an enrolled member of the Spokane Tribe, assaulted her. Butterfly was upset with the victim because the victim had let another woman shelter in her home because of the cold weather. Butterfly began shouting, took out a long knife and began stabbing the floors, doors, and furniture. Butterfly then assaulted the victim by holding the knife against her throat and said, “this is how you kill someone.” Butterfly pushed the victim down on the couch, placed his hand over the victim’s mouth and attempted to suffocate her. Butterfly used such force; it left a bruise. The victim was able to pry Butterfly’s fingers off her face. Butterfly then left the home in the victim’s vehicle. Officers found Butterfly the next morning asleep in the victim’s vehicle. He was arrested and taken to the Spokane County Jail.

On November 2, 2023, while in jail, Butterfly placed a recorded telephone call to his neighbor. During the call, Butterfly made several statements indicating he did not want the victim to testify. Butterfly encouraged his neighbor to stress to the victim that he would be coming home if she did not speak to investigators.

United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice presided over the trial, which began on April 8, 2024. Sentencing in this matter is set for July 10, 2024.

“Everyone deserves to live in a safe home free of violence. Native Americans experience some of the highest rates of violence in the country, a situation that is more tragic in light of the generations of trauma already suffered by Indigenous people, especially Native American women,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “By working with our tribal and federal law enforcement partners, we can continue to build trust and foster safer and stronger communities on Tribal lands and throughout Eastern Washington.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Spokane Tribal Police Department. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Ellis.

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

Grandview Man Sentenced to Prison for Starting Destructive Fires Causing Millions in Property Damage - 04/10/24

Yakima, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Christopher Vaughn Schlax, age 48, of Grandview, Washington has been sentenced after pleading guilty to three counts of Damage by Fire to a Building or Personal Property Used in Interstate and Foreign Commerce. Chief United States District Judge Stanley A. Bastian imposed a sentence of 60 months imprisonment to be followed by 3 years of supervised release.

According to court documents and information presented at the sentencing hearing, Schlax was involved in a series of burglaries on June 27, 2022. A short time later, Schlax and an alleged accomplice traveled to the Lineage Logistics warehouse in Grandview, Washington. To distract first responders from the burglaries, Schlax set fire to a pallet storage area at the warehouse. The fire caused $423,654 in property damage to the warehouse and presented a significant danger to firefighters called to fight the fire. 

Early in the morning of July 4, 2022, Schlax and the alleged accomplice made plans to burglarize the Dollar Tree store in Grandview. To distract from the burglary, Schlax and the alleged accomplice first drove to the fruit bin lot of River Valley Fruit. Schlax got out of the vehicle and lit a fire. The fire caused more than $1.5 million in damage to River Valley Fruit’s property. 

A short time later, Schlax and the alleged accomplice attempted to carry out their plan to burglarize the Dollar Tree. Schlax used a cutting torch to cut into a safe in the office of the Dollar Tree store. As a result, Schlax started a fire inside the Dollar Tree. The arson caused more than $1.8 million in damage to the Dollar Tree building and property. 

“Mr. Schlax not only committed burglaries, but then, to cover up his crimes, he started fires that endangered firefighters, law enforcement and members of the community. The fires started by Mr. Schlax also caused millions of dollars in property damage,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “I am grateful for our first responders who keep our community safe. I also want to commend the excellent work of our law enforcement partners and federal prosecutors involved in this case.”

“ATF is the only U.S. Government agency with fire and arson investigation as part of its core mission,” said ATF Seattle Field Division Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Blais. “For Mr. Schlax to intentionally start fires to distract first responders from his burglaries is especially cruel. Because of the destruction and danger he caused to the community, this sentence is clearly warranted.”

This case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Courtney Pratten and former AUSA Frances Walker, who indicted the case. 

The alleged accomplice has been indicted on charges of Damage by Fire to a Building or Personal Property Used in Interstate and Foreign Commerce. The accomplice, who has entered a not guilty plea, was arraigned on November 14, 2022, and is currently awaiting trial.  The indictment against the accomplice contains mere allegations.  All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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

Yakima Man Who Sold Pound Quantities of Methamphetamine and Fentanyl in the Yakima Valley Sentenced to 10 Years in Federal Prison - 04/09/24

Yakima, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Jesse Lee Johnson, 36, of Yakima, Washington, was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of Conspiracy to Distribute 500 Grams or More of Methamphetamine. United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke imposed a sentence of 120 months imprisonment to be followed by 5 years of supervised release.

Johnson’s codefendant, Ronald Lee Ralston, was sentenced on February 27, 2024, to 138 months in prison and 5 years supervised release. 

According to court documents and information presented at trial and the sentencing hearing, the FBI developed information that Johnson and Ralston, were distributing large amounts of methamphetamine and fentanyl from Ralston’s home in Selah, Washington.

FBI Task Force members arranged for a confidential informant to set up a controlled buy at Ralston’s house. On May 4, 2023, the informant arrived at the home and tried to purchase methamphetamine from Ralston. However, Ralston said the methamphetamine he had on hand was spoken for and not for sale. While no sale took place that day, Ralston and Johnson were captured on video discussing future drug sales.

On May 16, the informant returned to Ralston’s home and purchased one pound of methamphetamine and 100 pills of fentanyl from Ralston and Johnson for $2,000. Ralston also told the informant he could get any amount of methamphetamine and fentanyl with 24-hour notice.

A search warrant was executed on June 7, 2023, at Ralston’s residence. In Ralston’s trailer, located on the property, law enforcement seized 1.5 pounds of methamphetamine, other controlled substances, and two firearms. In the main residence, law enforcement officers seized another firearm and an additional half-pound of methamphetamine.

“Mr. Johnson and Ralston were distributing large amounts of illicit drugs into our communities. Discovering and dismantling illegal drug supply chains is a main priority for my office,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “I’m grateful for our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, who work closely with federal prosecutors to stop drug distributors and make Eastern Washington safer and stronger.” 

“The FBI and our partners are committed to removing deadly drugs from Washington state, which are so often accompanied by violent crime and addiction,” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle field office. “This sentence should serve as a reminder that we will hold drug traffickers accountable and that these crimes have consequences.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, Customs and Border Protection and the Selah Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Todd Swensen.

Washington Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Federal Prison for Second-Degree Murder and Assault with a Dangerous Weapon - 04/02/24

Yakima, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Silaz Elijah James, age 19, was sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of Second-Degree Murder and one count of Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke imposed a sentence of 240 months imprisonment to be followed by 5 years of supervised release as well as $6,620 in restitution.

According to court documents and information presented at the sentencing hearing, on April 13, 2022, James, who is an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation, got into an argument with his victim about money. As James walked out of the house in Toppenish, where the argument took place, he turned and fired a single shot from a pistol. The shot stuck the victim in the chest, killing her. James then got into a vehicle with two other people. As the driver of the vehicle pulled away, James fired two additional shots at people standing outside the home. Neither of those shots stuck anyone. 

On April 7, 2023, the Court granted the United States’s motion to transfer James’s case from juvenile to adult status. On January 9, 2024, James, who was 17 at the time of the offense, pleaded guilty. 

“This case is tragic in every way.  A young lady’s life was taken and Mr. James will spend the next several years in federal prison. Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragic and senseless crime. No sentence will ever erase the tragic loss of the life of the victim,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “I am grateful to the FBI and the Yakama Nation Tribal Police as well as the Assistant United States Attorneys from my office who worked to see this case through and seek justice on behalf of the young life that was taken.”

“Mr. James’s decisions ended the life of one person and put other innocent bystanders in immediate danger.” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “His actions demonstrated a disregard for the lives of people around him. Our hope is that the victim’s loved ones find some solace with today’s sentence.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Yakama Nation Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Murphy. 

Nine Mile Falls Man Who Used a Hidden Camera to Produce Child Pornography Sentenced to 20 Years in Federal Prison - 03/27/24

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Robert Wayne Hutton, age 60, of Nine Mile Falls, Washington, was sentenced on child exploitation charges. On January 3, 2024, Hutton pleaded guilty to Possession of Child Pornography. On January 16, 2024, after a bench trial before United States District Judge Mary K. Dimke, Hutton was found guilty of Production and Attempted Production of Child Pornography. Judge Dimke imposed a sentence of 240 months of imprisonment to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Judge Dimke also ordered restitution in the amount of $25,000 be paid to Hutton’s production victim. 

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, between May 2021 and May 2022, Hutton secretly recorded a minor using a bathroom. Hutton placed a camera, hidden in a clock radio, on a bathroom counter in order to film the victim nude and create child pornography. The camera was wirelessly linked to Hutton’s smartphone, which Hutton used to view the recordings. Trial evidence also included Hutton’s 2009 Washington state conviction for Communication with a Minor for Immoral Purposes, based on sexual statements Hutton made in person and via text messages to a 15-year old girl.

Law enforcement obtained a search warrant and seized several electronic devices belonging to Hutton, including the hidden camera, Hutton’s phone, and several computers. A forensic review of the phone and computers revealed several video files and 33 images of the minor in various stages of undress, as well as hundreds of additional child pornography files. 

“For months, Mr. Hutton used a secret camera to record images of a young victim. He was also engaged in online trading of child pornography with similar-minded offenders. Our office prioritizes these offenses against our community’s youngest and most vulnerable and will continue to aggressively prosecute those who harm children,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “I want to commend our law enforcement partners, as well as our prosecutors and support staff for bringing justice for the victims and accountability to this defendant.” 

“This child predator engaged in behavior that was a betrayal of trust and a heinous exploitation of unsuspecting victims,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in the Pacific Northwest. “Collectively, we cannot tolerate such egregious acts that strip away the dignity of victims and provide the opportunity for revictimization. HSI will pursue these perpetrators tirelessly, seeking to end the abuse associated with images of child exploitation wherever it may be found.”

“This case was particularly heinous; the victim was preyed upon by someone in a position of trust. Though there is nothing my office can do to undo the hurt this victim has felt, I hope that healing can begin with this conviction,” said Erika George, Prosecuting Attorney for Stevens County. “I would like to thank the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office for their hard work in their investigation, and I am equally grateful for the efforts of the US Attorney’s Office in their successful prosecution.”

This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office. State charges were filed by the Stevens County Prosecutor’s Office, and the federal case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ann Wick. 

White Swan Couple Sentenced to Federal Prison for Carjacking and Violent Assault on the Yakama Nation - 03/27/24

Yakima, Washington – Chief United States District Judge Stanley A. Bastian sentenced Sundron Larsell Miller, age 37, to 25 years in federal prison for Carjacking, Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, Felon in Possession of a Firearm, and Assault with Intent to Commit Murder. The Court also sentenced Miller’s codefendant, Paula Eulojia Cantu-Lopez, age 28, to 17 years in federal prison for Carjacking, Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, and Assault Resulting in Serious Bodily Injury. Chief District Judge Bastian imposed 5 years of federal supervision on both defendants upon their release from custody. Miller and Cantu-Lopez are each from White Swan, Washington.

According to court documents and information presented at trial and the sentencing hearing, Miller and Cantu-Lopez were romantically involved. On December 28, 2021, the victim was with both Miller and Cantu-Lopez driving in the area of Fort Simcoe Road on the Yakama Reservation. The victim was driving her pickup, and Miller began assaulting Cantu-Lopez. When the victim tried to intervene, both Miller and Cantu-Lopez turned and assaulted the victim, who is an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation. 

During the assault, the victim was pulled out of her own truck, and Miller attempted to shoot the victim with her own rifle. Miller pointed the rifle at the victim’s face, and the victim saw Miller pull the trigger and heard a “clicking “sound. Fortunately, the rifle was unloaded. After attempting to kill the victim, Miller and Cantu-Lopez beat the victim, threw her in the back of the truck and drove her to a residence in White Swan. After arriving at the residence, the victim was again beaten by Miller and Cantu-Lopez. 

Ultimately, the victim was able to break away and run for her life. The Yakama Nation Police Department quickly responded and collected evidence of the crimes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation also assisted in the investigation. 

Chief District Judge Bastian presided over the trial which began on August 7, 2023. A jury returned verdicts on August 11, 2023. 

“The victim in this case suffered horrifying acts of violence. I applaud her bravery in escaping, and her courage to come forward and engage with law enforcement to seek justice,” stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “I am grateful for our strong partnerships with the Yakama Nation Tribal Police Department, the FBI, and community members. By working together, we can continue to build trust and foster safer and stronger communities on Tribal lands and throughout Eastern Washington.” 

“The victim in this case was trying to break up an altercation when she became the target of a violent assault.” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Seattle field office. “Fortunately, she was able to escape before being killed by Mr. Miller and Ms. Cantu-Lopez. The FBI is dedicated in working with our partners to put an end to this type of violence on our state’s reservations.”

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

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

Former Town Clerk and Town Council Member Indicted for Stealing More Than $195,000 from Town of Cusick - 03/21/24

Spokane, Washington – On March 19, 2024, a federal grand jury for the Eastern District of Washington returned an indictment charging Luke Michael Servas, age 38, with 25 counts of Wire Fraud, 26 counts of Bank Fraud and 25 counts of Aggravated Identity Theft. 

According to court documents, Servas embezzled more than $195,000 while employed as the Town Clerk for the town of Cusick, Washington between October 2022 and March 2023.  During that time period, Servas was also an elected member of the town council.  

Like many cities and towns, Cusick residents elect a town council, which selects a town clerk. The clerk has responsibility to keep accurate records of city council financial accounts, and acted as custodian for Cusick’s operating bank account used to receive and safeguard public funds and to make public expenditures on behalf of the town.  Cusick’s account also had two credit cards issued to make purchases on behalf of the town: one issued to Cusick’s elected mayor, and one issued to Servas as town clerk.  Both credit cards were only for authorized public purchases and expenses, and were only to be used by the specific official to whom they were issued. 

The Indictment alleges that Servas fraudulently and without authority used the mayor’s town credit card, as well as his own town credit card, to embezzle and transfer more than $190,000 in public town funds from Cusick’s bank account to PayPal accounts owned and controlled by Servas and his spouse, and to a cryptocurrency account owned and controlled by Servas. 

According to the Indictment, in March of 2023, other town officials expressed concern that funds were missing from the town’s account.  The Indictment alleges that Servas then contacted the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office to report that between $150,000 and $200,000 had been stolen from the Town of Cusick’s operating bank account, using the mayor’s credit card account to which Servas stated only the mayor had access.  The Indictment further alleges that, after making this report, Servas wrote a fraudulent $4,961 check from Cusick’s account to himself, forged the mayor’s signature as well as that of another town official, and cashed the check on or about March 20, 2023. 

“An elected public official, entrusted with the funds to keep communities safe and strong, has a moral duty and legal responsibility to protect that money”, stated U.S. Attorney Waldref. “My office is committed to stopping all fraudsters, especially those who abuse their positions of trust.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Spokane Resident Agency, with investigative and logistical support from the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Auditor’s Office.  This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Dan Fruchter. 

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Spokane Bank Manager Pleads Guilty to Stealing more than $345,000 - 03/21/24

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Jessica Ann Marshall, age 27, of Spokane, Washington, pleaded guilty to one count of Theft and Embezzlement by Bank Employee.  United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice accepted Marshall’s guilty plea, and set sentencing for June 27, 2024, in Spokane.

According to court documents, between June 2023 and September 2023, Marshall was working as a Bank Manager at the Bank of Idaho’s downtown Spokane, Washington branch. Using her position as a manager, Marshall stole and embezzled at least $345,664 in cash from the bank vault, ATM, and her cash drawer. 

Marshall falsified documents to reconcile the cash and directed bank employees to sign falsified count sheets in order to hide her theft and embezzlement. Marshall also used her position as Bank Manger to make fraudulent deposit transactions into her spouse’s account. These fraudulent transactions reflected that money was being deposited into the account; however, no funds were deposited. 

When Bank of Idaho inquired about the deposits into her spouse’s account, Marshall attempted to conceal her conduct by using a co-worker’s email account to send an e-mail with false information. Marshall then accessed the computer of another co-worker to delete an email from Bank of Idaho inquiring about the deposits. 

“Bankers and financial professionals are given an extraordinary amount of trust. When they abuse that trust to commit theft and line their own pockets, they devastate our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Waldref. “We will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to hold those accountable who use their position to enrich themselves.” 

“In only several months of employment, Ms. Marshall betrayed her company’s and clients’ trust by misusing her access to accounts, stealing a large sum of money, and attempting to cover up the crime,” said Richard A. Collodi, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle field office. “The FBI, together with our partners, will continue to investigate financial crimes and bring unethical behavior to light.”

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Spokane Resident Agency. Assistant United States Attorney Dan Fruchter is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States. 

Case No. 2:24-CR-00040-TOR

Toppenish Man Sentenced to Prison for Strangling and Threatening His Partner with a Firearm - 03/18/24

Yakima, Washington - Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Tyler Jonas Senator, age 24, of Toppenish, Washington has been sentenced after pleading guilty to one count of Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence, and one count of Assault of a Spouse, Intimate Partner, or Dating Partner by Strangling or Suffocating. Chief United States District Judge Stanley A. Bastian imposed a sentence of 84 months and 1 day imprisonment to be followed by 5 years of supervised release. 

According to court documents and information presented at the sentencing hearing, on April 23, 2023, Senator, and his partner, who are both enrolled members of the Yakama Nation, were driving in the victim’s vehicle. Senator assaulted the victim by grabbing the victim’s neck and strangling her, leaving bruises and scratches around the victim’s throat. Later that day, Senator and the victim were inside their house in Toppenish. Senator resumed the assault, hitting, kicking, and biting the victim. Senator also hit the victim in the head with the butt of a rifle, then pointed the firearm at the victim and threatened her. 

“Mr. Senator assaulted the victim, who is the mother of his young child, by choking her and hitting her with a firearm. I commend the bravery of the victim in coming forward,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “Everyone deserves to live in a safe home free of domestic violence.  We recognize that indigenous communities suffer domestic violence at much higher rates than many other demographics. We are committed to addressing violent crimes in Indian country and elsewhere and holding perpetrators accountable.”  

“While no sentence will take away the horror of being assaulted by a trusted partner, we hope this case shows our continued commitment to fighting back against violent crime on our state’s reservations,” said Kelly M. Smith, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Seattle field office.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Yakama Nation Police Department. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael Murphy.