From the October 2000 Idaho Observer:
U.S. Attorney refuses to prosecute career criminal
Oregon Observer sued as prosecutors approve white-collar crime
By Investigative Reporter Edward Snook
On September 5, 2000, a lawsuit was filed by career criminal Benjamin R. Meyers in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon, against investigative reporter Edward Snook, criminal attorney Greg Veralrude of Eugene, Harvey Graves, CEO of Empire Wholesale Lumber Company of Akron, Ohio, bankruptcy attorney R. Scott Palmer of Eugene, Joe Harwood, a writer for the Eugene Register Guard newspaper, and the Eugene Register Guard newspaper.
Meyers is suing for malicious slander and libel by perfidious innuendos and tampering with a judicial proceeding by illicit persuasion. It's sad that someone hasn't instructed career criminal Benjamin R. Myers that the truth is an absolute defense for slander. In other words, Myers' lawsuit will be dismissed in slam-dunk fashion!
In the August edition of The Oregon Observer we published an article titled U.S. attorney won't prosecute Oregon lumber broker -- Twice convicted felon, Benjamin R. Meyers -- Career criminal goes free! The article was a follow-up on Meyers in a story that we broke over two years ago in which Empire Wholesale Lumber Company, Akron, Ohio, successfully went after Meyers.
It has been reported to The Oregon Observer that U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson who refuses to prosecute Myers is a past associate of Hillary Clinton, having reportedly attended the same college as Hillary. This might possibly be a clue as to why Olson has refused to prosecute Meyers, the career criminal. Our reader simply needs to ponder for a moment regarding the first lady's husband and his associates in order to figure this one out.
In their letters to Attorney General Janet Reno regarding Kristine Olson's refusal to prosecute Meyers, lumber companies from all over America have been very precise. One letter states, Can a twice-convicted, hardened career criminal, felon with numerous arrests, who has defrauded six other wholesale lumber distributors in six different states for a total of approximately $796,622 go free?
Another executive stated, I am extremely concerned that by not enforcing the law as written, by implication, you are condoning such criminal activity in the forest products industry. What good is a criminal justice system if the proper deterrent for white-collar crimes such as this is not carried out? Fraud is a crime that should be prosecuted based on the laws we have enacted. By prosecuting Benjamin Meyers you regain our industry's trust in the criminal justice system, preserve the integrity of our laws, and strengthen the perception that trust will continue to prevail as the foundation of all transactional activity in our great industry.
Yet another President of a lumber company wrote to Janet Reno stating, This outrageous Empire vs. Meyers case cries out for immediate prosecution. Meyers has a long rap sheet at the Eugene, Oregon courthouse. The issue still remains. Can a twice-convicted hardened career criminal felon with numerous arrests who has defrauded six other wholesale lumber distributors in six different states for a total of approxmimately $796,622 go free?
There you have just a small part of Mr. Meyers -- the career criminal. Amazingly we have many more letters and evidence of this rotten 'crimes. Meyers has sued (on his own -- without an attorney), however, Meyers is still a criminal!
In all fairness to Empire Wholesale and the lumber products industry we will now revisit this entire case.
U. S. ATTORNEY OLSON WON'T PROSECUTE OREGON LUMBER BROKER! WHO DEFRAUDED AKRON, OHIO, LUMBER WHOLESALER?
Twice-Convicted Felon, Benjamin R. Meyers, Career Criminal Goes Free!
Harvey Graves, the chairman of Empire, has served in the past on the Board of Directors of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) in Chicago. Graves is also chairman of the Ohio Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (OAWD) in Columbus, Ohio, for all commodity lines. Graves has been an active member of the National Association of Wholesalers (NAW) of Washington, DC. The NAW represents 44,000 places of business nationwide. Thus, he has seen all too many times over the years where small wholesale distributors have been the victims of fraudulent crooks, causing them to lose large sums of money. Small business is by far the nation's largest employer. Sadly, most small businessmen cannot afford to hire a lawyer to prosecute their case in court when they encounter fraud. They are forced to take the hit. This is important and significant, because the public never hears about the thousands of small businessmen who have to capitulate to crooks because they don't have the money to prosecute. This has greatly emboldened crooks even more in recent years. In the Empire vs. Benjamin R. Meyers case, Graves could afford to prosecute and decided to make an example of Meyers as a deterrent to other crooks who prey on small businessmen.
This story is about sending good money after bad. The Eugene, Oregon, Register-Guard published an article on Meyers which was relayed nationwide on the Associated Press and Knight-Ridder wires. The Associated Press article, however, was written in a greatly reduced form. So, here is the rest of the story.
Being a good corporate citizen, Empire has reluctantly chosen to go public to expose this outrageous case and miscarriage of justice which cries out for criminal prosecution. Meyers and other thieves currently have no deterrent for their chosen way of life and this is unacceptable.
Empire Wholesale Lumber Company (Akron, Ohio) for the past four (4) years, has sought to stop lumber broker, Benjamin R. Meyers, from defrauding (stealing from) them. Meyers, an ex-con from the Oregon State Penitentiary-turned lumber broker, defrauded Empire out of over $253,258 by selling lumber products owned by Empire and pocketing the entire proceeds, without Empire's knowledge or consent.
Empire confronted Meyers in late 1995. Meyers admitted he owed Empire and promised to pay. All would have ended there, except Meyers promptly reneged and Empire had to sue. After committing his blatantly obvious crimes, Meyers filed bankruptcy in an attempt to use the legal system as a means of covering his tracks. Meyers had also sought to discharge debts to many creditors nationwide in an amount exceeding $796,622.
In a September, 1999 trial held in the United States Bankruptcy Court in Eugene, Oregon, Empire Wholesale was successful, winning a $253,258 judgment, plus costs and interest against Meyers.
Empire, who has currently spent over $255,000 in legal expenses, has succeeded in stopping Meyers' bankruptcy fraud as well as obtaining judgment against him, but Empire's interest in Meyers isn't over. According to Harvey Graves, Chairman and CEO of Empire Wholesale, Meyers should be prosecuted for his nationwide white-collar crimes. He has hurt many others and allowing him to get away with his criminal actions will only enhance the chances that Meyers and others like him will commit similar crimes.
At trial, representatives from other lumber companies in Oregon, Arizona, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Ohio testified about the fraud they incurred in doing business with Meyers and his different companies in Eugene, Oregon.
There is no question that Benjamin R. Meyers has used his own company (Meyers Lumber Sales, Eugene, OR) for criminal conspiracy, grand larceny, defrauding and swindling seven other wholesale lumber distributors in six or more states. This is well-documented. This predatory career criminal's business-to-business fraud is proof positive that by any legal measure, this is a business criminal conspiracy that should be swiftly prosecuted under U.S. RICO laws. There is overwhelming case law to prove this.
U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson's excuse that there is no paper trail in the Meyers case is not true. Indeed, prominent Eugene bankruptcy attorney R. Scott Palmer has carefully documented Empire's position and has presented it to Kristine Olson, U.S. Attorney for Oregon. However, Attorney Olson has apparently ignored Palmer's 33-page concise, factual legal brief and its legal case law citations.
These legal briefs speak loudly, and they speak volumes against U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson's twice refusal to prosecute. Benjamin R. Meyers is a twice-convicted hardened criminal felon who has served time twice in the Oregon State Penitentiary on two separate terms. Like it or not, sue us or not, this is an absolute fact.
Benjamin R. Meyers and his lawyers' continuous, endless and frivolous delaying tactics were able to tie up the bankruptcy court in Eugene, Oregon, for four (4) years at taxpayers' expense. It is outrageous that Empire had to wait four (4) long years before they could get even their first hearing before a bankruptcy judge in Eugene, Oregon, in an attempt to obtain justice. This is proof positive that, these days, debtors have more rights than do creditors in the U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. Meyers has a history of declaring bankruptcy in the past by manipulating the bankruptcy process to avoid paying his other defrauded victims. Unfortunately, Meyers likely regards coming out of this matter after committing grand larceny with a civil judgment as a victory because of the U.S. Attorney's office's lack of interest in prosecuting him -- and this judgment has not slowed him down a bit. Small and medium-size businesses, by far the nation's largest employers, are the victims of this serious breakdown of the U.S. judicial system.
Empire and their attorneys categorically reject Attorney Olson's excuse that there are statute of limitations problems. Both the law and the facts prove positively that this case can still be timely filed if Oregon Attorney Olson will show the necessary will and sense of justice this case deserves.
Here are the facts
Meyers' interstate thefts make it difficult for other prosecutors to establish legal jurisdiction. Since the majority of Meyers' crimes occurred in Oregon, the buck stops in Oregon.
Meyers committed these thefts under the umbrella of two business enterprises -- Oregon corporations through which he performed lumber brokering services under written agreement on an independent agency basis. These very simple facts make this case ripe for prosecution as a Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) case. This is unquestionably a continuing criminal enterprise.
He committed nearly 100 individual acts of theft by selling off Empire's wood products and pocketing the proceeds (contrary to the written agreement, dated August 11, 1993, between the parties). He concealed and lied about his activities as he was committing the thefts. Clearly, Meyers used a business enterprise to repeatedly commit grand theft that continued well into 1996 and early 1997. Indeed, a former employee of his company, Darrell Whitsell, has given testimony that Meyers continued to hold and secrete small portions of Empire's wood products inventory as late as 1998.
Meyers' activities in his companies also involved actions in concert with his employee, Darrell Whitsell (who eventually blew the whistle on Meyers), which would constitute conspiracy to commit an interstate theft.
Whether viewed as a continuing criminal enterprise or as a conspiracy, the U.S. Government has at least a five-year statute of limitations running from the date of the last act of theft. The duration of the course of these transactions is marked by the actual overt acts proven at trial. See U.S. v. Davis, 533 F2d 921, 929 (5th Cir. 1976). Clearly, Meyers' acts in selling off Empire's product and pocketing the proceeds constitute overt acts within the meaning of the law. The statute of limitations for a conspiracy charge begins to run from the time of the last overt act committed by any co-conspirator from the termination of the conspiracy. See Fiswick v. U.S., 329 US 211, 216 (1946). The basic statute of limitations for a felony offense is set forth in 18 U.S. Code § 3282. Therefore, the statute of limitations will not end until December 2000.
The continued refusal of Oregon's U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson to prosecute this case and then stonewalling justice is baffling and disappointing. Empire has essentially prepared this case with great care, written testimony documentation, and with close attention to detail and diligence.
Attorney Kristine Olson's refusal to prosecute this well-documented case sends the wrong message, not only to Mr. Meyers and several others of his ilk, but also to the Pacific Northwest forest products industry and the U.S. lumber industry as a whole. The lumber industry perceives, right or wrong, that the U.S. Attorney's non-prosecution is essentially a green light to crooked lumber brokers. Many in the industry (and there are letters to back it up) are asking, Is the U. S. Attorney's office just lazy, or are they soft on white collar crime? Will they simply refuse to prosecute a case where a business rather than a governmental agency is the victim of the theft or fraud? Are they just going to continue to try to pass this off as a civil matter? How can Benjamin Meyers commit grand larceny theft of $250,000 up to $659,292 nationwide and victimize numerous others, but continue to go un-prosecuted, to pursue his criminal profession?
Meyers continues to file frivolous appeals in the federal courts, using delaying tactics. Meyers has also reportedly applied recently for disability benefits in the Oregon courts. How long will the permissive Oregon courts allow Meyers to continue representing himself in court -- without an attorney, adding to the continuing waste of Oregon taxpayers' money? Many in the lumber industry have the perception that anything goes when it comes to justice involving small- and medium-sized businesses and that the American justice system has definitely broken down. I say that their perception is right on the money!
Informed sources in the lumber industry stated that Meyers isn't the only crooked lumber broker stealing from legitimate lumber industry businesses. So, Graves' concerns are not only valid, they are indicative of a much larger problem.
Where's the prosecution?
U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson in Portland actually has jurisdiction through the U.S. Attorneys' branch office in Eugene, Oregon. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani has failed to prosecute Meyers even though strong evidence against Meyers has been provided him. Why? This defies all logic! The huge forest products industry deserves to have Empire's strong written evidence and documented case tried before an Oregon jury in a federal court. Oregon's U.S. Attorney's office has not tried a crooked lumber broker case since 1996. This is an urgently needed lumber industry deterrent example case, which needs to be prosecuted promptly and tried with a sharp edge to protect the Pacific Northwest from predatory thieves and swindlers. Oregon's U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno should stop stonewalling the Empire Wholesale Lumber Company vs. Benjamin R. Meyers fraud case.
Empire has done all of the heavy lifting in obtaining written documentation for Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani in Eugene, Oregon (and therefore U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson), to easily try an open-and-shut case, for clear-cut criminal actions. Empire obtained the bankruptcy court's written testimony and depositions of many of Meyers' victims in order to help the Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eugene branch office. Realizing that Meyers has a track record of prosecutions for writing bad checks and other theft-related crimes, is Oregon Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani now placing his stamp of approval on Meyers' criminal activities?
Empire has already researched and paid $255,000 in legal fees for the tedious, time-consuming testimony of Meyers' victims throughout the country. Empire has pulled together all of the pertinent trial exhibits and business records, and conducted thorough depositions in the discovery process.
What's more, Empire has even given the case a trial run in the successful civil trial before Judge Alley in Eugene, Oregon, resulting in a finding of conversion and fraud and the non-dischargeability of Meyers' debt. Most of the costly expense that the government typically incurs in prosecuting someone -- investigating the crime and developing evidence to convict the perpetrator -- has already been borne by Empire. Meyers is a hardened, professional criminal who needs to be taken off the streets.
This should be an easy case to try. It is an airtight case against a predatory, multi-state, career criminal. It is even more reprehensible that Meyers has not already been prosecuted for his crimes. Meyers should not be able to further manipulate the federal courts' bankruptcy system by using his countless, frivolous delaying tactics.
The significant Oregon lumber industry has long provided substantial tax dollars to the State of Oregon (in part to help pay for law enforcement and protection) and the fine men and women who have built this industry deserve much better.
A puzzling letter was sent to Mr. Nick Kent, President and CEO of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) in Chicago, dated September 12, 2000, from Attorney General Janet Reno's Washington, DC office. It was written by Louis DeFalaise, Senior Council to the Director in U. S. Attorney Janet Reno's office but was, curiously, actually signed by James L. Santelle for DeFalaise. This letter stated that Empire was a potential victim (i.e. of Benjamin R. Meyers). DeFalaise apparently ignored the fact that Empire was already a bona fide victim, defrauded of $253,258! DeFalaise also informed NAWLA that the burden of proof in a criminal case is much higher than in a civil case. Empire's top-notch legal team of Greg Veralrud (criminal attorney) and R. Scott Palmer (bankruptcy attorney) are fully cognizant of this fact. This is elementary federal evidentiary law 101. Both prominent attorneys, Veralrud and Palmer have been litigating in federal courts in Oregon for well over twenty (20) years. They have written documentation taken in a previous trial from six of Meyers' defrauded victims. Empire's attorneys have an airtight case for multiple, clear-cut, multi-state federal crimes committed by Meyers.
A portion of the massive taxes paid over the years by the Oregon forest products industry goes toward the legal protection of this industry. After all, Empire is entitled to their day in an Oregon federal court, with a trial before a jury. Why does Oregon's U.S. Attorney Olson continue the permissive protection of Meyers who is a twice-convicted, career felon, who has twice served time in the Oregon penitentiary?
This case deserves the Oregon U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson's immediate attention. It is doubtful that Empire will recover very much of what a now bankrupt Benjamin Meyers has stolen without the coercive action of criminal prosecution.
Is this case not being prosecuted because the prosecution of white-collar crime does not produce for prosecutors the sensational headlines that an armed robbery, rape, or a murder case would?
Many in the Pacific Northwest expect, as do those within the lumber industry, that Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani in Eugene, should follow recommendations from the FBI in this case and start a prosecution against Meyers for his already proven criminal conduct.
It gets worse. Now, Empire and its forest products industry sympathizers are forced to petition, persuade, cajole, and challenge the U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Kristine Olson to prosecute Meyers. Furthermore, both Attorney General for the United States, Janet Reno and Oregon U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson, have received well over forty (40) letters from the lumber industry and others nationwide and also from members of Congress, urging her to enforce U.S. criminal laws for this outrageous miscarriage of justice in Oregon.
Lumber producers and wholesale distributors, forest product trade associations, small business associations, credit insurers, the National Association of Credit Management (NACM) and judicial advocates for the public interest, have written asking for criminal prosecution of Meyers.
So far, Attorney General Janet Reno's inaction, right or wrong, gives the appearance of just another stonewall against criminal prosecution. FBI investigators also have evidence and also recommend prosecution. What better criterion does the U.S. Justice Department require to prosecute such an obvious, blatant, hardened career business criminal and bring him to justice?
Lumber industry to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, -- You are soft on white-collar crime!
Why is the U. S. Attorney for Oregon protecting a multi-state career business criminal? Meyers has a long rap sheet at the Eugene, Oregon Courthouse. The issue remains, can a twice-convicted, hardened career criminal felon with numerous arrests who defrauded other businessmen in six (6) states for a total of approximately $796,622 go free?! If so, this will be a slap in the face to the U. S. forest products industry.
Remember that in most states when a poor inner city kid steals a used car worth $2,000 to $20,000 for the third time, he usually gets 1 to 1½ years in prison. But Meyers commits $796,622 in grand larceny and goes free. As a result, there is a double standard for criminal prosecution in America.
Any way you slice it, the Oregon U.S. Attorney's Office is looking bad.
JUSTICE DELAYED IS JUSTICE DENIED. FRAUD TAKES PRECEDENCE IN U.S. LAW
Thank God, Mr. Harvey Graves had the resources and will-power to take this matter through the courts and expose Meyers. Most can't afford this luxury. In fact, most, whether in a criminal situation or civil, must plea bargain on the one hand or settle on the other. With regards to most of those finding themselves in Mr. Graves position, they would simply swallow their pride, carry a much lighter pocketbook and go on with life. When the small person runs out of funding, so-called justice disappears. In other words, without money, there is no justice --period.
The ball is in your court Attorneys Olson and Reno. Please give countless numbers of voters some renewed hope in America's criminal justice system or confirm our present belief that it is totaled.
It will be interesting to see how the Oregon U.S. Attorney Kristine Olson's and Attorney General Janet Reno's refusal to prosecute career criminal Benjamin R. Meyers will be received in the court of public opinion.
YOU BE THE JUDGE!
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