Death threat in Valley fraud probe
A private investigator working on behalf of the owner of collapsed Valley Investments said his life was threatened after he began contacting investors.
The threat is a “potent example of the climate in the Grand Junction area concerning the emotions in this case,” Daniel T. Smith, the attorney for Valley Investments owner Philip Rand Lochmiller, said in court papers filed to oppose conducting a trial in Grand Junction.
Lochmiller and two others face charges of mail and securities fraud in connection with the fall of Valley Investments a year ago this month.
In an affidavit filed in federal court in Denver, private investigator Steven Snyder said he received a telephone call from a private number late the night of May 3 after he began contacting investors to set times for interviews as part of Lochmiller’s defense.
During the 11:08 p.m. call, the male caller told Snyder that if he and Smith traveled to Grand Junction for the interviews, “They would go home in body bags,” the affidavit said.
The caller then hung up, the affidavit said.
Snyder “found the caller sounded serious” and considered the call to be threatening, the affidavit said.
Federal prosecutors have asked that the trial, now scheduled in Denver, be moved to Grand Junction because most of the investors and many of the people who investigated Valley Investments are based in the Grand Valley and surrounding areas.
Smith and Snyder didn’t respond to efforts by The Daily Sentinel to contact them Wednesday.
No report of the threatening phone call was made to the Grand Junction Police Department or the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, the agencies said.
Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, said prosecutors learned of the threatening call from the defense motion, which was filed Monday.
Prosecutors “immediately asked the FBI to investigate the threat,” Dorschner said. “If the FBI figures out who did it, and they’re pretty good at that, that person is in a world of trouble.”
Prosecutors will respond to the defense filing with their own “at the appropriate time,” Dorschner said.
Smith opposed conducting the trial in Grand Junction, citing security issues as well as the issue of whether the jury pool had been tainted in western Colorado by coverage of the collapse of Valley Investments and the subsequent filing of federal criminal cases. The defendants are Lochmiller, his son, Philip Rand Lochmiller Jr., and an employee, Shawnee Carver. The elder Lochmiller lives in Mack, and Carver lives in the Grand Junction area. The younger Lochmiller resides in Overland Park, Kan.
The receivership for Valley Investments has received no threats, said Lloyd Quesenberry, of the law firm Rider and Quesenberry.
U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer has yet to decide where to conduct the trial.