Grandview Business Owner Indicted in $3 Million Extortion, Money Laundering Scheme
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that the owner of a Grandview, Mo., lawn care company has been indicted by a federal grand jury for a $3 million extortion and money laundering scheme that began when a cocaine deal went awry.
Shelton E. Lewis, also known as “Steve Johnson” or “C,” 39, of Grandview, was charged in a 19-count indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. That indictment was unsealed and made public following Lewis’s arrest in Atlanta, Ga., and initial court appearance in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia. Lewis remains in custody pending a detention hearing in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo.
Lewis is the owner of Green Results Landscape & Lawncare, LLC. According to the federal indictment, Lewis and/or Green Results Landscape & Lawncare held three accounts at Academy Bank, a division of the Armed Forces Bank, N.A. These accounts were opened shortly after his business was formed and regularly held minimal, or as was often the case, negative balances. In August of 2012, the indictment says, that changed. Lewis allegedly began depositing large cashier’s checks and business checks into these accounts. From Aug. 31, 2012, to Aug. 14, 2013, the indictment says, Lewis deposited a total of $3,050,110 into his accounts, with all the proceeds coming from the same company.
The indictment alleges that Lewis transmitted multiple threats to injure that company’s owner, RW, as part of an extortion scheme.
According to the indictment, the extortion scheme began in July 2012 when Lewis agreed to sell approximately six ounces of cocaine for $3,000 to RW. While RW was waiting for the deal to be consummated, he was approached by the police. Lewis witnessed that police contact, the indictment says, and did not return with the agreed-upon cocaine. Lewis allegedly told RW that, since the deal was not completed, the dealer (Lewis’s source) was assessing a $10,000 penalty. RW paid the penalty and picked up what he thought was cocaine at the drop location, the indictment says, but only received a bag of flour.
In August 2012, according to the indictment, Lewis told RW that he had a plan for him to get his money back. The plan was for RW to purchase a block of cocaine and sell it, thereby recouping RW’s previously spent money. RW allegedly paid the requested money and additionally provided a Rolex watch that Lewis demanded. RW was further directed to obtain a pay-as-you go, or throw-away phone for future contact.
In the fall of 2012, Lewis allegedly told RW that he had been pulled over by the police and that the money and watch were seized. Lewis also claimed that the police had RW’s fingerprints from the watch and were going to charge RW with drug conspiracy. Lewis allegedly informed RW over the throw-away phone that he knew an attorney who could make the investigation go away, but it would require paying off the attorney and the judge assigned the case. RW paid the requested money, according to the indictment.
Lewis allegedly told RW that the attorney would contact him in the future. According to the indictment, when a person claiming to be an attorney contacted RW on the throw-away phone, the attorney reported that an unrelated federal investigation had developed which would require additional bribes to clear up. RW allegedly paid the additional, exorbitant sum.
RW was called, again on the throw-away phone, and told that the drug cartel knew where he lived and had left a present for him, the indictment says, which turned out to be a box full of Winchester .45-caliber, semi-automatic ammunition. Additionally, according to the indictment, RW was told that if he failed to make the payments requested, he or any family member presently in his home would have their heads chopped off.
According to the indictment, these threats were made using a throw-away phone that RW had been instructed to obtain. The phone calls were often followed by text messages describing payments that RW was expected to make in order to keep him from being charged with a crime, or to prevent violence from being inflicted upon him.
In addition to one count of threatening extortionate communications, the federal indictment charges Lewis with 18 counts of money laundering for engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property. Those transactions allegedly include multiple cash withdrawals at the Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., purchases of luxury items such as a Rolex watch and several automobiles – including a Mercedes Benz, an Aston Martin and a Lamborghini – and paying off the mortgage on his Grandview residence.
The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Lewis to forfeit to the government any property derived from the proceeds of the alleged offenses, including a $3,050,110 money judgment (representing the proceeds obtained by Lewis from the scheme), $1,053,586 that has been seized from his bank accounts, a 2005 Bentley, a 2006 Mercedes Benz, a 2007 Aston Martin, a 2011 Aston Martin, a 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo and a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro.
Dickinson cautioned that the charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Valenti. It was investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.