Lochmiller witness hopes deal means probation
The executive assistant who worked with many investors at failed Valley Investments is seeking probation instead of a prison sentence.
Shawnee Carver, who testified against Valley Investments owner Philip Rand Lochmiller in his trial in July, received none of the benefits of the Ponzi scheme, her attorney, Colleen Scissors, said in a memo to the federal court arguing for probation.
Carver pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and securities fraud as part of the deal by which she testified.
Carver and Lochmiller’s stepson, Philip Rand Lochmiller II, are to be sentenced on Friday in the Wayne N. Aspinall Federal Building courtroom in Grand Junction. She faces a maximum five-year sentence.
The younger Lochmiller also pleaded guilty in connection with the case and faces as many as 15 years in prison.
Carver’s “involvement in the Lochmillers’ crimes was markedly less than their considerable culpability,” Scissors wrote in the memorandum.
Lochmiller Sr. enticed investors to Valley Investments with promises of annual returns up to 18 percent. He kept from them his own background of having pleaded guilty to securities fraud in California, as well as his practice of placing multiple deeds on the same lots in affordable-housing projects he owned in Colorado, Idaho and Utah. He also paid children other than his stepson even though they didn’t work at the company.
Carver, like other employees, received a salary, increases and bonuses, but “she was not pocketing funds, relatives who did not work at Valley Investment were not on the payroll and she was not using investor money to purchase lavish homes or vehicles,” Scissors wrote.
Although she worked closely with both Lochmillers, Carver had no reason to believe the business was failing, given that the owner and his son had impressive homes, fancy cars, hosted lavish parties and owned a condominium unit in Mexico, where they were frequent visitors, the memo says.
She was impressed enough that Carver at one point sought to have her mother invest her own life savings, $5,000, in the business.
Carver, meanwhile, does not own a home, drives a 10-year-old vehicle and has no savings.
She is the single mother of four children who has no previous criminal record and is now a trusted employee elsewhere.
The father of her youngest child has been in and out of jail while the father of her other children, while conceivably able to care for them if she is incarcerated, works on a schedule in which he visits Grand Junction for three weeks, then returns to work in North Dakota for a month, the memo says.
Carver’s mother and brother also are unable to care for her children and Carver’s loss to her children “will be irreplaceable to her family,” the memo says.
Carver is willing to make monthly payments toward $2.5 million in restitution, Scissors wrote.
She is additionally deserving of probation because of her assistance to the prosecution in combing checking-account records, going through computer records and proving testimony that was “measured, straightforward and helpful” to the prosecution, Scissors wrote.
“On some level, Lochmiller Sr. defrauded Ms. Carver, too,” Scissors wrote. “When she repeatedly expressed concern about the multiple deeds on some lots, he repeatedly assured her they plenty of assets to cover all the deeds.”
The Lochmillers “put her into the untenable position of lying to their clients and of having to constantly deal with disgruntled clients” when the Lochmillers refused to return their calls.
Carver’s actions were explainable, though not justifiable, Scissors wrote.
“She liked the job. She like the investors. Lochmiller Sr. was kind to her. Her salary was more than adequate. She was the mother of four small children and a single parent. She wanted to keep her job and they were her bosses.”