Valley Investments employee pleads not guilty
A woman who authorities allege helped keep the books for Valley Investments pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.
Shawnee Carver, 33, a Valley Investments employee who was named in a 33-count indictment, was free on bond when she appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gudrun Rice. The judge directed Carver’s court-appointed attorney, Colleen Scissors, to contact the clerk of U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer in Denver at some point over the coming week to schedule a trial.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer said the government intends to try Carver and her former boss, Philip Lochmiller, 61, and his son, Philip Lochmiller Jr., 38, at the same time. Heldmyer said she will need four to six weeks to present the case.
Lochmiller Jr. also pleaded not guilty.
Carver on Wednesday was seated at the defendant’s table alongside the elder Lochmiller. The two briefly acknowledged one another but said nothing.
Rice allowed Marna Lake, a court-appointed attorney for Lochmiller Sr., to withdraw from the case. Another local attorney, Stephen Laiche, was appointed but said he may not know until Monday whether he can represent Lochmiller. Laiche said an attorney in his law firm may have a conflict of interest.
Lochmiller, who remains free on a $100,000 personal-recognizance bond, was ordered to appear again before Rice at 11 a.m. Monday.
The judge said she expects a plea to be entered by Wednesday.
According to the indictment, Carver worked as a personal assistant to Lochmiller Jr. and interacted with investors by mail and in person, in addition to notarizing documents.
The Lochmillers and Carver are accused of defrauding approximately 400 people out of $31 million from 2000 to 2009 in a scheme that authorities have alleged was similar to a Ponzi scheme.
After Wednesday’s hearing, Heldmyer said she will file a motion seeking Brimmer’s approval to hold the trial in Grand Junction. The indictments in the Valley Investments investigation were handed up by a grand jury in Denver.
If the case stays in Grand Junction, Heldmyer said, federal authorities may seek to hold the trial at the Mesa County Justice Center because of cramped conditions in the lone courtroom in the Wayne N. Aspinall federal building.