News and Press Releases

Mark Sams Sentenced in U.S. District Cour

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Missoula, on January 9, 2009, before U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy, MARK SAMS, a 50-year-old resident of Seattle, Washington, appeared for sentencing. SAMS was sentenced to a term of:

  • Prison: 42 months
  • Special Assessment: $200
  • Restitution: $61,093.76
  • Supervised Release: 3 years

SAMS was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to access devise fraud and aggravated identity theft.

In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

In April of 2007, SAMS convinced persons in the Whitefish area that he was N.H., the son of singer Merle Haggard. SAMS, holding himself out as N.H., claimed that he had been a Lear Jet pilot for 20 years and that he had worked for Clay Lacy Aviation. He claimed to have quit flying due to health problems. He told his new acquaintances in Whitefish that he needed to go to Mexico to check out an opportunity to manage a small resort near Puerto Vallarta. He said he had assisted Clay Lacy Aviation in selling jets and had a six-figure credit with the company. He wanted to treat his new friends to a trip and planned an itinerary.

On April 29, 2007, SAMS and persons from the Whitefish area met at the Glacier International Airport in Kalispell and began a trip on a chartered Clay Lacy jet that took them to Prescott, Arizona, then to Las Vegas, Nevada, then to Los Cabos, Mexico, to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Diego, California, then to Seattle, Washington, again to Prescott, Arizona, and then back to Kalispell, Montana.

SAMS used the American Express Credit Card account number of an individual from Whitefish to pay for the trip. The American Express Credit Card account number used to obtain the charter flight services was **** *** *** *1001.

On April 29, 2007, Clay Lacy Aviation informed SAMS that the credit card number he had initially used to pre-authorize the trip had been rejected. SAMS made various excuses for the problem before finally providing American Express Credit Card account number **** *** *** *1001 to Clay Lacy Aviation in Seattle, Washington. This number was relied upon for pre-authorization purposes and was the number of the account which was charged for the charter flight services.

The amount fraudulently charged to the individual's American Express account for the charter flight services was $61,093.76.

The individual whose American Express Credit Card account number was used to purchase the charter flight services did not give SAMS permission to use his account number.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that SAMS will likely serve all of the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, SAMS does have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction will not exceed 15% of the overall sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Lahr prosecuted the case for the United States.

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Secret Service.



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