PUYALLUP MAN INDICTED FOR $2.5 MILLION EMBEZZLEMENT FROM LUMBER MILL - Log Scaler Submitted Phony Records, Checks Mailed to Co-Conspirators for Non-existent Lumber
BRETT M. SMITH, 24, of Puyallup, Washington was indicted last week by a grand jury in Seattle, for his role in a scheme to embezzle $2.5 million from Manke Lumber Company. The indictment was unsealed today. SMITH was a log scaler for Manke, who was fired in July 2006, following an internal investigation of the fraud. SMITH and seven other people including SMITH’s brother, BRYAN M. SMITH, were indicted for eleven counts of Mail Fraud, and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. As part of the indictment the government is seeking to forfeit numerous cars and bank accounts.
According to the indictment, BRETT SMITH began working at Manke Lumber in May 2004. In September 2004, SMITH became a “Scaler” for Manke. A scaler weighs, measures and inspects logs delivered to the lumber mill to determine their grade and value. Based on that information, Manke Lumber would mail checks to those people who were being compensated for the logs. Between November 2004, and July 2006, SMITH and others entered into a scheme to create false records that prompted Manke to send checks to conspirators for logs that were never delivered to the mill.
The indictment alleges that BRETT SMITH and three other defendants, BRYAN SMITH, 28, Puyallup, BRYAN’s girlfriend ELAINE H. TURNER, 28, Puyallup, and JEFFREY S. OGBURN, 24, Puyallup, (also a Manke employee for a short time) recruited others to act as recipients of the fraudulently obtained checks. JENNIFER L. CARINO, 25, ROBERT M. LESTER, 28, ROBERT E. DANIELS, 27, and ZEDRICK M. CARTER, 30, are alleged to have cashed the checks from Manke Lumber, keeping some of the proceeds and returning the rest to BRETT SMITH and his co-conspirators. In all, SMITH submitted false log intake information in twenty different names. Some of those who received checks and participated in the scheme have already entered guilty pleas.
Mail Fraud is punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Conspiracy to Launder Money is punishable by up to twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charges contained in the indictment are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. SMITH and others charged in the indictment will make their initial appearances in U.S. District Court in Tacoma this afternoon at 2:30.
The case is being investigated by the Tacoma Police Department and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI).
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Arlen Storm.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.