Portland, Ore.—Shamont Lyle Sapp, 50, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Anna J. Brown to 33 months in prison for mail fraud in an unsuccessful scheme to obtain money from four Roman Catholic dioceses through fictitious claims of child sex abuse by priests. A former Pennsylvania resident, Sapp pleaded guilty to pursuing fabricated cases against dioceses in Portland, Oregon; Tucson, Arizona; Covington, Kentucky; and Spokane, Washington, from 2005 through 2010. He filed the fraudulent claims in pending bankruptcy and class action cases while he was a federal prison inmate serving lengthy sentences for ten Pennsylvania bank robberies he committed in 1995.
Each of Sapp’s claims falsely alleged that he had been sexually abused as a teenage runaway in 1978-79. Sapp’s allegations required extensive investigative and legal work by courts, special masters, and the four dioceses before being disproved and dismissed as groundless. The longest case occurred in U.S. District Court in Portland in 2008-2010. It directly incurred $70,000 in legal expenses by the Archdiocese of Portland, which Sapp must pay as restitution as part of his criminal sentence.
This is the second mail fraud case in Portland involving fictitious claims of child sex abuse against a former Portland priest. In 2005, Thomas Edward Smolka received a three-year federal sentence for concocting a similar scheme.
“Fraudulent claims in court, especially by prison inmates, are a serious drain on public and private resources and deserve significant penalties,” United States Attorney Amanda Marshall said. “This is particularly true of fictitious sex abuse cases, which injure the falsely accused and hurt real abuse victims, who frequently remain silent, thinking no one will believe them.”
The nationwide investigation of Sapp was conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephen F. Peifer.