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PUYALLUP MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO $2.5 MILLION EMBEZZLEMENT FROM LUMBER MILL
Log Scaler Submitted Phony Records, Checks Mailed to Co-Conspirators for Non-existent Lumber

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 5, 2009

BRETT M. SMITH, 25, of Puyallup, Washington, pleaded guilty to Mail Fraud today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for his leadership role in a scheme to embezzle $2.4 million from Manke Lumber Company. 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 in June 2008, for Mail Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. Four of the defendants, including Bryan Smith, pleaded guilty on December 16, 2008, and December 17, 2008. BRETT SMITH and defendants ELAINE TURNER and ROBERT DANIELS had their guilty pleas delayed because of the December snow storms. All three pleaded guilty today in front of U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton. Judge Leighton scheduled BRETT SMITH’s sentencing for April 10, 2009, at 9:30 a.m.

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.

BRETT SMITH and other defendants, including Bryan Smith, 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, cashed the checks from Manke Lumber, keeping some of the proceeds and returning the rest to BRETT SMITH and his co-conspirators. In his plea agreement SMITH admits he submitted false paperwork for more than 1500 loads of logs worth more than $2.5 million. In all, SMITH submitted false log intake information in twenty different names.

As part of his plea agreement, SMITH will forfeit to the government a 2002 BMW and a 1998 BMW, as well as two bank accounts.

Bryan Smith, Jeffrey Ogburn, Jennifer Carino and Robert Lester all entered guilty pleas December 16, 2008, and December 17, 2008. Ogburn, Carino, and Bryan Smith will be sentenced March 20, 2009. Lester will be sentenced March 26, 2009.

Zedrick M. Carter was sentenced for Filing a False Income Tax Return on December 23, 2008, to five months of home confinement, a year of supervised release, and $55,160 in restitution.

Additional defendants who have already pleaded guilty include:

Shaun C. Jones, of Tacoma, Washington, will be sentenced on February 27, 2009, for Money Laundering Conspiracy;
Berlie L. Fincham, 29, of Tacoma, Washington, will be sentenced on February 27, 2009, for Money Laundering Conspiracy;
Steven Howe, 32, of Federal Way, Washington will be sentenced February 20, 2009, for Filing a False Income Tax Return;
Monica L. Ramos, of Tacoma, Washington will be sentenced March 2, 2009, for making a false statement to the IRS;
Marco Verhaaren, of Tacoma, Washington, will be sentenced March 6, 2009, for Filing a False Income Tax Return;
Shawn Pak, 22, of Spanaway, Washington, will be sentenced February 27, 2009, for Filing a False Income Tax Return;
Khanda Lor,26, of Tacoma, Washington, will be sentenced February 27, 2009, for Making a False Statement to the IRS;
Anthony L. Barbera, of Tacoma, Washington will be sentenced February 20, 2009, for Making a False Statement to the IRS;
Daniel P. McCormick, 29, of Puyallup, Washington, will be sentenced February 20, 2009, for Making a False Statement to the IRS;
Helen Ware, 29, of Tacoma, Washington, will be sentenced February 20, 2009, for Making a False Statement to the IRS;
David P. Vinson, of Tacoma, Washington, will be sentenced February 19, 2009, for Making a False Statement to the IRS;
Courtney J. Wemmer, of Puyallup, Washington, will be sentenced February 20, 2009, for Filing a False Income Tax Return;
Jason A. Staley, of Lakewood, Washington, will be sentenced February 27, 2009, for Filing a False Income Tax Return;
Mark McDonald, 28, of Tacoma, Washington, will be sentenced February 26, 2009, for Filing a False Income Tax Return;
Tyler T. Jones, 27, of Bothell, Washington, will be sentenced February 25, 2009, for Filing a False Income Tax Return;
Philip E. Bingham, of Tacoma, Washington, will be sentenced February 20, 2009, for Filing a False Income Tax Return;
Robert Troop, 28, of Tacoma, Washington, will be sentenced March 13, 2009, for Filing a False Income Tax Return;

The case was 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.

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