News and Press Releases

husband of Christian County Assessor charged
with wire fraud in new indictment

original bank fraud charges remain for false cattle theft claim

October 6, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Clever, Mo., man was charged with wire fraud in a new indictment returned by a federal grand jury today. Those charges were added to the original indictment’s charges related to a bank fraud conspiracy that involved a false cattle theft claim.

Lonnie Utah Littles, 62, of Clever, was charged in a five-count superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield. Today’s superseding indictment replaces an Oct. 14, 2009, indictment and adds two additional counts of wire fraud. Littles owns Poco Cala Ranch with his wife, Christian County Assessor Sandra Bryant-Littles.

Today’s superseding indictment alleges that Littles committed wire fraud on Feb. 8 and 9, 2009, by causing two on-camera interviews by his employee and co-defendant Jesse D. Rice, 57, of Clever, to be broadcast by television stations KY3 and KOLR-10. Those interviews, the indictment says, were part of Littles’ scheme to defraud Liberty Bank and Shelter Insurance Company by falsely claiming that his cattle had been stolen. According to the indictment, the television interviews consisted of communication that was transmitted in interstate commerce for the purpose of executing a fraud scheme.

Littles is also charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts of bank fraud. Those counts were contained in the original indictment.

According to the indictment, 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 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 allegedly 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 indictment says, the bank representative counted approximately 37 head during the inspection.

Phillips cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment 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.

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, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Rural Crimes Unit and IRS-Criminal Investigation.

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