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Idaho man pleads guilty to money laundering

An Idaho man with ties to the anti-government “Sovereign Movement” appeared Friday before a Las Vegas judge and admitted he laundered about $1.3 million after undercover FBI agents told him the money came from a bank fraud scheme.

Samuel Davis, 56, of Council, Idaho, and another man were indicted two years ago on one count of conspiracy and 30 counts of money laundering. Davis pleaded guilty to all the counts on Friday, days before his trial was to begin.

After admitting his guilt, Davis read a statement to U.S. District Judge James Mahan. He began by quoting Scripture.

“For too long I have let this go on, attempting to find a better way,” Davis told the judge. “For that I apologize. There in fact is no other way, your honor.”

Davis admitted his guilt without the benefit of a plea agreement. Mahan told him each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

After the hearing, defense attorney Todd Leventhal said prosecutors had offered a plea agreement that carried a recommendation for about two years in prison, but Davis did not want to sign a contract with the government or give up his appellate rights. Leventhal said his client preferred to let the judge choose a reasonable punishment.

Davis, who is free on his own recognizance, came to court Friday with his wife. He is scheduled to return June 24 for sentencing.

According to the defendant’s guilty plea memorandum, Davis and co-defendant Shawn Rice of Seligman, Ariz., laundered about $1.3 million for the undercover agents, who said the money came from the theft and forgery of official bank checks. The crimes occurred between about March 2008 and March 2009.

Davis took nearly $74,000 in fees; Rice took about $22,000, according to the memorandum. Prosecutors said Rice, 48, is a fugitive.

In court , Davis said government agents “knowingly, willfully with malice and with a conscious disregard for my rights … devised a scheme of entrapment and inducement targeting me under the pretext of friendship, and deception of lies.”

“It has always been my intent to abide the law,” Davis said. “Admitting poor judgment and accepting full responsibility for my actions, I violated my own principles according to God’s word and fell into the aforementioned traps, deceptions and bearing of false witness to my detriment.”

Leventhal said the case had “hints of entrapment,” but he did not consider that a strong defense for Davis, whom he described as a religious “man of conviction.”

“He decided to do what he felt was right and take responsibility for what he had done,” the lawyer said.

Leventhal said his client is an entrepreneur who has no prior criminal record.

Law enforcement officials have said Davis and Rice were actively involved in an extreme anti-government organization whose members attempt to disrupt and overthrow government and other forms of authority by using “paper terrorism” tactics, intimidation, harassment and violence.

They have said members believe they do not have to pay taxes and consider U.S. currency invalid.

Authorities have described Davis as a national leader of the movement and said he travels around the country teaching its ideology.

Leventhal disputed the description of his client as a leader in an anti-government movement, saying Davis has problems with the way the government spends tax dollars but “believes in a clear society that has laws and rules and regulations.”

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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