OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JOHN F. WOOD
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
JANUARY 22, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
KANSAS WOMAN, LEE’S SUMMIT MAN CHARGED WITH WIRE FRAUD RELATED TO SEXUAL ASSAULT FOR HIRE
WOMEN STAGED ATTACK IN ATTEMPT TO SETTLE
SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – John F. Wood, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Bucyrus, Kan., woman and a Lee’s Summit, Mo., man were charged in federal court today for wire fraud related to a scheme between two women who hired the man to assault both women, sexually assaulting one of them. The women were allegedly hoping to force a higher settlement of their sexual harassment lawsuit against a former employer.
Julie R. Bernet, 39, of Bucyrus, and Gordon F. Reabe, Jr., 33, of Lee’s Summit, were charged in a federal criminal complaint that was filed under seal on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009, in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo. That complaint was unsealed and made public today following the arrests of Bernet and Reabe, and the initial court appearance of Bernet. The initial appearance for Reabe, who was arrested in Salt Lake City, Utah, while on a lay-over traveling to Las Vegas, Nev., has not yet been scheduled. A preliminary hearing and detention hearing for Bernet is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009, in Courtroom 6D.
According to an affidavit that was filed in support of the federal criminal complaint, Bernet and Lindsey D. Crawford, 23, of Kansas City, Mo., hired Reabe to stage an attack. They offered to pay Reabe $100,000, the affidavit says, to physically assault both of them and to sexually assault Crawford. When Reabe carried out the attack, assaulting the women as planned in Crawford’s garage, they allegedly filed a fraudulent report with the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.
Bernet and Crawford staged the attack in order to force a higher settlement in a sexual harassment lawsuit, the affidavit says. Bernet and Crawford filed a civil lawsuit against former employer Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City as well as Soave Automotive Group, Inc. (the parent company of Mercedes-Benz of Kansas City), T.E.N. Investments, Inc., and Soave Enterprises, L.L.C., in Jackson County Circuit Court on March 10, 2008, citing gender discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation. In order to improve the settlement value of their sexual harassment lawsuit, Bernet and Crawford discussed several ideas, including a fraudulent scenario that would include a staged assault against both women.
On Nov. 24, 2008, Bernet and Crawford met Reabe at The Range, a restaurant located in Harrah’s Casino, where they allegedly made plans for Reabe to actually assault Bernet and Crawford. According to the affidavit, Bernet and Crawford agreed to pay Reabe $50,000 each, for a total of $100,000, if the settlement of their lawsuit was more than $1.5 million. Reabe suggested that following the assault, in order to make it appear more realistic, that he would start the car and close the door to the garage in order to make it appear to police that there was an attempted murder.
The next day, Nov. 25, 2008, Bernet and Crawford met Reabe at Loose Park to finalize the plans. They allegedly agreed that Reabe would physically assault both women and sexually assault Crawford. Crawford agreed to a sexual assault, but only if she was knocked unconscious beforehand.
Bernet and Crawford then drove to Crawford’s residence, the affidavit says, where Crawford changed into a skirt for the purpose of making it easier to facilitate the sexual assault. Bernet and Crawford each drank a beer from a glass bottle, placing the empty bottles on the floor inside the garage for Reabe to use during the attack.
Bernet and Crawford went shopping at Town Center Plaza in Overland Park, Kan., then met Reabe for dinner at Tower Park restaurant. Reabe told the women he was going to purchase a ticket to the Kansas University basketball game at the Sprint Center and then open a tab at McFadden’s Sports Saloon in order to establish an alibi.
Crawford drove Bernet and Reabe to her home as they continued discussing the assault, the affidavit says. Reabe informed the women that he would have to inflict actual physical damage to both of them if the assault were going to appear realistic. When Crawford approached her residence, Reabe laid down in the seat to avoid being seen. Crawford pulled her car into the garage and closed the garage door.
According to the affidavit, when they got out of the car, Crawford allowed Reabe to duct tape her mouth and hands. Crawford turned to face the car, and Reabe hit her in the head with one of the tools he had brought with him. Crawford did not lose consciousness so Reabe struck her again, causing her to fall to the floor. Crawford was still conscious, the affidavit says, as Bernet began directing Reabe during the physical assault against Crawford to also sexually assault Crawford with a beer bottle. Reabe followed Bernet’s instructions during the assault. As Crawford moved around in an effort to stop the assault, Reabe told Bernet that they needed to duct tape her legs because she was moving around too much. After Crawford’s legs were bound with duct tape, Bernet continued to direct Reabe in where to hit Crawford.
Reabe then covered Bernet’s mouth with duct tape, the affidavit says. As she faced the car, Reabe hit her from behind with a beer bottle, causing her to fall to the ground and lose consciousness. When she awoke, Bernet had duct tape around her hands and was lying on the ground looking under the car at Crawford. Bernet could see Reabe using the stem of a rose and a metal object to sexually assault Crawford.
Reabe allegedly returned to the other side of the car and hit Bernet in the leg a couple of times. Reabe then started Crawford’s car, turned the lights out, and left the garage through the side door, closing it as he left.
Bernet then contacted the neighbors across the street, who called the police. Bernet told the officers that two masked men accosted her and Crawford, who denied any memory of the attack. Both women indicated that they believed this assault was related to their pending sexual harassment lawsuit. A multi-jurisdictional investigation was launched by the Kansas City Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Bernet allegedly met with Reabe on Dec. 12, 2008, at Toby Keith’s Bar in Harrah’s Casino to discuss his payment for staging the assault. Bernet told Reabe she did not believe the assault was going to help settle the lawsuit any sooner or for larger gain as there did not appear to be any forensic evidence connecting the crime scene to the parties involved in the lawsuit. In order to provide further evidence linking the staged assault to the defendants named in the sexual harassment lawsuit, the affidavit says, Bernet and Reabe discussed a plan to make a threatening phone call from Aristocrat Motors (a subsidiary of Soave Automotive Group) to Bernet, in which Bernet would claim that her life had been threatened by the caller. Bernet provided her cell phone number to Reabe, then contacted Crawford and told her about the plan.
Reabe allegedly offered to pay $20,000 to his neighbor, Ethan A. Weiner, 32, of Lee’s Summit, if he would go to Aristocrat Motors on Dec. 13, 2008, and make a phone call to a number provided by Reabe. Reabe did not tell Weiner who he was calling, or why, but instructed him to use one of the courtesy phones at Aristocrat Motors and to leave the line open for a brief period of time but not to say anything to the person that answered. Weiner went to Aristocrat Motors and walked inside, used the restroom and then left the business without making the telephone call. Instead, he used his own cell phone to call the number Reabe had provided him.
Bernet then called a Kansas City police officer, according to the affidavit, and falsely claimed that her life had been threatened in a telephone call from an unknown male. The FBI traced the telephone number to Weiner’s cell phone and he was interviewed at police headquarters. The wire fraud charge in today’s complaint is related to the interstate telephone call that Bernet allegedly made from her home in Kansas to the police officer in Missouri in furtherance of the scheme to defraud Mercedes Benz of Kansas City, the Soave Automotive Group, T.E.N. Investments and Soave Enterprises, LLC.
Wood cautioned that the charge contained in this complaint is simply an accusation, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charge must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt J. Whitworth and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Mahoney. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at