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NEWS RELEASE

OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY

WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI


BETH PHILLIPS


Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html


NOVEMBER 9, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


CHRISTIAN COUNTY ASSESSOR PLEADS GUILTY TO MAIL FRAUD;

FAILED TO ASSESS HER OWN PROPERTY FOR TAXES


HUSBAND PLEADS GUILTY IN CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD BANK,

INSURANCE COMPANY IN FALSE CATTLE THEFT CLAIM


            KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the Christian County Assessor and her husband have both pleaded guilty in federal court today to all charges against them in two separate but related cases. Sandra Bryant-Littles, 51, of Clever, Mo., pleaded guilty to four counts of mail fraud after failing to assess herself for personal property taxes. Those charges were contained in an Oct. 5, 2010 superseding indictment, which replaced the original four-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Oct. 14, 2009. Her husband, Lonnie Utah Littles, 62, also of Clever, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and two counts of wire fraud, regarding a false cattle theft claim. Those charges were contained in another Oct. 5, 2010 superseding indictment, which replaced the original Oct. 14, 2009 three-count indictment in his case. The two trials were scheduled to take place the weeks of Dec. 6 and Dec. 13, 2010.


            “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,” Phillips said. “In pleading guilty, she admits she lied on her own assessment forms in order to defraud the taxpayers and voters of Christian County.”


            Bryant-Littles and her husband owned personal property under their own names and under the name of Poco Cala Ranch, from Dec. 31, 2006, until Feb. 19, 2009. During that time, Bryant-Littles admits she filed personal property tax assessment lists for herself and for Poco Cala that intentionally 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 was 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 admits she knew these tax bills understated the correct tax that was owed. In each of those years, Bryant-Littles admits she and her husband paid personal property taxes to the government of Christian County which Bryant-Littles knew understated the true and correct tax owed.


            For 2007 and 2008, Bryant-Littles 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 an unknown number of cattle.


            Bryant-Littles’s fraud was discovered when law enforcement officers investigating a cattle theft reported by her husband reviewed their personal property assessment forms, and discovered that no cattle were listed. Further investigation revealed that numerous other assets were omitted. When confronted about the discrepancies, Bryant-Littles admitted to law enforcement officers that she knew the forms were not correct, and asked if she could correct them. Bryant-Littles was arrested at her county office the morning of Oct. 15, 2009.


            In pleading guilty to all five counts of the superseding indictment in his case, Lonnie Utah Littles admitted that he concocted a scheme to defraud Liberty Bank and Shelter Insurance Company. He admitted that he used a line of credit from Liberty Bank to obtain money and property, while at the same time selling cattle that were collateral on the loan, in violation of his contract with Liberty Bank. According to the plea agreement, as of February 8, 2009, Littles owed a principal balance of approximately $104,956.50 on the $105,000 line of credit.


            As a part of his scheme, Littles admitted that he contacted his insurance representative on Dec. 17, 2008, in order to increase his insurance coverage on his cattle,from $60,000 to $100,000. Then, shortly before a Liberty Bank representative was scheduled to inspect his cattle, Littles conspired with his ranch hand and co-defendant, Jesse D. Rice, 58, also of Clever, to falsely report the cattle stolen. Littles told Rice to make the false report the weekend of Feb. 8, 2009, while Littles and his wife were out of town, traveling to conduct Littles’s prison ministry.


            The morning of Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009, Rice contacted the Christian County Sheriff’s Department to report the theft of 53 head of cattle, although no cattle had been stolen. On the same day, Littles filed a fraudulent insurance claim for $66,250. Littles admitted that as a part of his scheme, he committed wire fraud by instructing Rice to provide two on-camera interviews falsely claiming that the cattle had been stolen, which were broadcast on Feb. 8 and 9, 2009, by television stations KY3 and KOLR-10. The interviews consisted wire fraud because they were communications transmitted in interstate commerce for the purpose of executing a fraud scheme.


            Under federal statutes, Bryant-Littles is subject to a sentence of up to 80 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine of up to $1 million. Littles is subject to a sentence of up to 130 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine of up to $3.5 million. Rice, who on Feb. 11, 2010 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, is subject to a sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $1 million. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.


            This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Criminal Investigative Unit, Missouri State Highway Patrol Rural Crimes Unit, and IRS-Criminal Investigation.

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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

www.usdoj.gov/usao/mow/index.html