former county assessor sentenced for mail fraud;
failed to assess her own property
husband sentenced for conspiracy to defraud bank,
insurance company in false cattle theft claim
SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the former Christian County Assessor and her husband were both sentenced in federal court today in two separate but related cases.
Sandra Bryant-Littles, 51, of Clever, Mo., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr to four months in federal prison without parole and ordered to pay $2,080 in restitution to Christian County. Her husband, Lonnie Utah Littles, 63, also of Clever, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr to 15 months in federal prison without parole.
On Nov. 9, 2010, Bryant-Littles pleaded guilty to four counts of mail fraud after failing to assess herself for personal property taxes. Littles pleaded guilty on the same day to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and two counts of wire fraud, related to a false cattle theft claim.
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 bills 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 Littles reviewed the couple’s 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, 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 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, 57, 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.
On Feb. 8, 2009, Rice contacted the Christian County Sheriff's Department to report the theft of 53 head of cattle, although no cattle actually 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. The interviews were broadcast on Feb. 8 and 9, 2009, by television stations KY3 and KOLR-10. The interviews comprised wire fraud because they were communications transmitted in interstate commerce for the purpose of executing a fraud scheme.
Rice pleaded guilty on Feb. 11, 2010, to conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 29, 2011.
These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. They were investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Criminal Investigative Unit, the Missouri State Highway Patrol Rural Crimes Unit, and IRS‑Criminal Investigation.