OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MATT J. WHITWORTH
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
OCTOBER 15, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CHRISTIAN COUNTY ASSESSOR INDICTED FOR MAIL FRAUD;
FAILED TO ASSESS HER OWN PROPERTY FOR TAXES
HUSBAND, EMPLOYEE ALSO INDICTED FOR BANK FRAUD,
FALSE CATTLE THEFT CLAIM
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that the Christian County Assessor has been indicted by a federal grand jury for mail fraud after failing to assess herself for personal property taxes. Her husband and an employee were also indicted, in two separate cases, with bank fraud related to a false cattle theft claim.
Sandra Bryant-Littles, 50, of Clever, Mo., was charged in a four-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009. Her husband, Lonnie Utah Littles, 61, and an employee, Jesse D. Rice, 56, both of Clever, were charged in two separate indictments that were also returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Wednesday. All three indictments were unsealed and made public today upon the arrests and initial court appearances of the defendants.
“As the elected Christian County Assessor, Sandra Bryant-Littles was charged with the duty to honestly assess property owners for the value of their taxable personal property,” Whitworth said. “The federal indictment alleges that she shirked this duty when it came to her own property. Bryant-Littles allegedly lied on her own assessment forms as part of a scheme to defraud the taxpayers and voters of Christian County.”
Bryant-Littles was arrested at her county office this morning. Littles and Rice were arrested at their homes this morning.
According to the federal indictment, Bryant-Littles and her husband, who is not charged in the same indictment, owned personal property under their own names and under the name of Poco Cala Ranch, from Dec. 31, 2006, until Feb. 19, 2009. The indictment alleges that during that time, Bryant-Littles filed personal property tax assessment lists for herself and for Poco Cala that omitted substantial property that was required to be reported and upon which personal property taxes were owed.
Each of the four counts of mail fraud is related to assessment lists filed for the years 2007 and 2008, for which the county collector mailed two personal property tax bills to Bryant-Littles and two personal property tax bill to Poco Cala Ranch. Bryant-Littles allegedly knew these tax bills understated the correct tax that was owed. In each of those years, the indictment says, Bryant-Littles and her husband paid personal property taxes to the government of Christian County that Bryant-Littles knew understated the true and correct tax that was owed.
For 2007 and 2008, Bryant-Littles allegedly failed to report or assess personal property tax upon such property as six vehicles, a motorcycle, two tractors, three utility and flat-bed trailers, a horse trailer, and more than 100 head of cattle.
In two separate but related indictments, Littles and Rice, who worked as a ranch hand at Poco Cala Ranch, are each charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Bryant-Littles is not charged in these two indictments. In addition to the conspiracy, Littles is charged with two counts of bank fraud and Rice is charged with one count of bank fraud.
According to the indictments, Littles obtained a $105,000 line of credit from Liberty Bank using his cattle as collateral. Between January 2008 and March 3, 2009, Littles sold at least 63 head of cattle that had been used as collateral without the knowledge or permission of Liberty Bank. In order to conceal the sale, the indictment says, Littles and Rice falsely reported to law enforcement that the cattle had been stolen. Also, Littles allegedly filed a fraudulent insurance claim.
Littles contacted his insurance representative on Dec. 17, 2008, in order to increase his insurance coverage on his cattle from $60,000 to $100,000, according to the indictment. On Feb. 8, 2009, Rice contacted the Christian County Sheriff’s Department to report the theft of 53 head of cattle, although he allegedly knew that no cattle had been stolen. On the same day, the indictment says, Littles filed a fraudulent insurance claim for $66,250. Rice provided two on-camera interviews with local television stations regarding the purported cattle theft.
On Feb. 12, 2009, in arranging an on-site inspection of cattle at his residence, Littles told a representative of Liberty Bank that he then had approximately 100 head of cattle remaining on the property. However, the bank representative counted approximately 37 head during the inspection.
Whitworth cautioned that the charges contained in these indictments are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. They were investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and the state Livestock and Farm Protection Task Force (which includes the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Water Patrol).
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