Jailed Montana resort founder invokes right to silence

AP News
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Posted: Apr 29, 2016 2:47 PM

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The jailed founder of a Montana club for the ultrarich said he won't answer a judge's demands to reveal what happened to hundreds of millions of dollars in assets he drained from the resort prior to its bankruptcy.

Yellowstone Club founder Timothy Blixseth invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination in court documents filed Thursday. Simultaneously, Blixseth declared bankruptcy in federal court in California for a financial trust that his creditors allege was used to hide his assets.

Courts have ruled Blixseth fraudulently transferred $286 million from the Yellowstone Club prior to its 2008 bankruptcy. The club near Big Sky has a members-only ski mountain and golf course and an A-list membership that includes Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Blixseth has been in jail for a year for contempt of court under an order from U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon, but he has not been criminally charged. His attorneys have repeatedly asked the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals to free Blixseth but with no success.

The bankruptcy filing will allow Blixseth to maximize the value of his assets and begin paying off creditors, Blixseth's attorney Phillip DeFelice said. It also puts on hold a lawsuit against Blixseth in Montana from some of his creditors.

The bankruptcy is expected to trigger the sale of assets held by Desert Ranch LLLP, a California entity founded by Blixseth in the days leading up to the Yellowstone Club's bankruptcy.

Court documents filed by Blixseth and his attorneys claim Desert Ranch had assets of between $50 million and $100 million. The documents claim Desert Ranch has $1 million to $10 million in liabilities.