Spokane Developer and Preservationist Sentenced to One Year of Home Confinement and Ordered to Pay a $60,000 Fine Plus Restitution and Forfeiture for His Role in Insurance Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme
Spokane – William D. Hyslop, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Richard Ronald Wells, age 71, of Spokane, Washington and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, was sentenced after having pleaded guilty on April 30, 2019, to six counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of money laundering, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Chief United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice sentenced Wells to a 1-year term of home confinement, to be followed by a 3-year term of court supervision, and ordered him to pay a $60,000 fine. Chief Judge Rice also ordered Wells to pay restitution in the amount of $179,876 and forfeiture of $179,876. Wells forfeited this amount and paid it in full to the court registry prior to sentencing.
According to information disclosed during court proceedings, Wells admitted to participating in one staged accident in Liberty Lake, Washington, involving his $59,557 Ram pickup truck being intentionally driven into co-defendant Chris Frangella’s Ford F-150 pickup truck trailering another individual’s 36-foot Baja cigar boat. In an effort to pursue a fraudulent insurance claim, Wells lied to police and the insurance company by claiming he was the driver of the “at fault” vehicle and that it was an accident, when neither were true. The insurance proceeds fraudulently generated from the phony accident totaled $338,266. The scheme enabled Wells to eliminate approximately $80,000 in personal debt (a $20,000 loan borrowed from another individual and $59,557 he owed a credit union on his Ram truck).
Wells’ fraudulent claim also enabled co-conspirator, Sandra Talento, to collect an insurance payout for fictitious personal injuries claimed to occur in the same incident. Talento pleaded guilty on June 6, 2019, to twenty-five felonies in connection with her role in this and other staged accidents. Talento was sentenced on November 7, 2019, to a 5-year and 10-month term of imprisonment, a 3-year term of court supervision, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,100,000 and forfeiture of $2,100,000.
According to information disclosed during court proceedings, Wells also laundered proceeds from another staged accident involving other individuals. These proceeds were derived from a September 21, 2016, staged automobile accident in Rescue, California, involving defendants Misael Reyes-Tajimaroa (using the fake identity “Andrew Arceo”), Brittany Jo Harris, Alexander Arceo and others that generated fraudulent insurance settlement payouts totaling approximately $312,838. On February 21, 2017, and February 28, 2017, an insurance company issued a $90,000 check and a $62,500 check as a result of this accident. Wells, and Reyes-Tajimaroa (using the identity “Andrew Arceo”), were listed as co-payees on each check. Both checks were deposited into Wells’ bank account. On March 20, 2017, Wells issued a $20,000 check payable to another individual, and a $15,000 check payable to a bank. A day later, Wells withdrew $100,319.56 via cashier’s check from his bank account which was used to pay off another individual’s mortgage on a property located in Spokane, Washington.
United States Attorney Hyslop, said “Ron Wells’ fraudulent conduct needlessly caused health care providers, emergency personnel and police officers to expend precious resources that otherwise could have been used to assist true victims. He lied to police and an insurance company in furtherance of an insurance fraud scheme and then he laundered criminal proceeds to disguise their illegal origin. Wells committed serious crimes here. In spite of the fact that he was once a respected community leader and developer in our region, he sacrificed that when he cheated, lied and laundered money. The sentence imposed reflects the role Wells played in the scheme and the fact that he benefitted from his fraud at the expense of the insurance system. This case should send a strong message that we will investigate and prosecute those who may seek to line their pockets through fraud and who launder their ill-gotten gains.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Raymond P. Duda, said "Here is an individual who let greed get in the way of doing the right thing. Now Mr. Wells is learning the real-life consequences of the decisions he made."
“Today Ronald Wells was held accountable for his participation in the staged accident conspiracy that generated more than $5.5 million dollars of fraudulent insurance proceeds and endangered the public. While our heroic first responders were treating conspirators like Wells at the accident scenes they could not respond to legitimate emergency calls,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Justin Campbell. “IRS-Criminal Investigation is proud to work alongside the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring this conspiracy to justice.”
This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, IRS Criminal Investigation, United States Marshals Service, and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, with assistance from the National Insurance Crime Bureau. This case is being prosecuted by George J.C. Jacobs, III and Brian M. Donovan, Assistant United States Attorneys for the Eastern District of Washington.