Former Ore. policeman, wife, face fraud charges

AP News
Posted: Oct 22, 2010 4:55 PM
Former Ore. policeman, wife, face fraud charges

A former Bend police captain and his wife who have been under investigation by the FBI and IRS over their real estate dealings in Oregon and Indiana have been indicted on fraud charges.

Kevin and Tamara "Tami" Sawyer are charged with 21 counts of various crimes that include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering, The Bulletin reported.

The indictment by a federal grand jury on Thursday alleges that between January 2004 and January 2009, the couple used investor money to pay for personal property _ including cars, credit cards and their vacation home in Mexico.

All told, Tami and Kevin Sawyer were involved, as a couple or separately, in at least 10 companies, took out millions of dollars in mortgages and loans from more than a dozen banks, and bought and sold dozens of properties around Deschutes County.

Prosecutors claim the fraud cost investors more than $4.4 million.

Kevin Sawyer did not return a message left on his cell phone. The couple's criminal defense attorneys, Marc Blackman and Shaun McCrea, did not return calls to their offices by the Bend newspaper.

KTVZ-TV in Bend reached Tami Sawyer, who said: "How funny. It's news to me. I had no earthly idea."

Tami Sawyer, 47, worked as a real estate agent as far back as 1990 and was registered as a principal broker with the Oregon Real Estate Agency. Her license expired in April.

Kevin Sawyer, 56, started as a reserve police officer in 1977, and according to Police Chief Sandi Baxter was hired full time in 1979. He served more than 29 years with the Bend Police Department, rising to the rank of captain, and retired March 4, 2009, after being placed on paid leave in February 2009.

According to Deschutes County property records, the Sawyers and their companies still own at least 18 properties around Bend.

Alleged victims of the fraud, including Anne Marie Whitney and Bend's David and Laurie Redwine, who invested more than $1.7 million with the Sawyers and their companies, said they were pleased to see the justice system working, even if it moved slowly. The Sawyers had been under investigation for nearly two years.

"We hope that the federal process of justice will be swift and final, and that all victims of their schemes will receive full restitution," David Redwine said. "This is pretty overwhelming stuff."

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Whitney, who met the Sawyers while serving as their daughter's dance instructor, told The Bulletin she feels betrayed. According to a lawsuit, the couple approached Whitney with potential real estate investments because they knew she had just lost her father and was inheriting close to $1 million.

"I felt we were friends," Whitney said. "They did take me, so to speak, under their wing, and I did feel trusting."

The indictment also alleges the Sawyers solicited investors by saying they'd develop 22 acres of real estate in Greensburg, Ind., near where a Honda Motor Co. manufacturing plant was to be built.

Tami Sawyer allegedly told some investors she'd gotten Honda's support for the development, and that several homes were already sold and under construction.

Prosecutors said the money was instead diverted to cars, credit card bills, phone bills, and the construction and decoration of their Cabo San Lucas vacation home in Mexico.

The couple was scheduled for arraignment Nov. 8 in U.S. District Court in Eugene.


Information from: The Bulletin,