By Tim Leeds
Hill County sheriff's deputies and agents of the Montana Criminal Investigations Bureau arrested a Lloyd man Friday on a charge of theft by deception of an elderly Havre resident.
Hill County Justice of the Peace Lane Hauge ordered Warren Hammons, 35, held on $150,000 bond. The complaint filed by the Hill County Attorney's Office Friday asked that a large bond be set because of the victim's fear of retaliation and a risk that Hammons may leave the area.
The felony charge against Hammons has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $50,000.
County Attorney David Rice said today the charge against Hammons could change by the time the case moves into District Court.
The amount Hammons is estimated to have stolen is more than $200,000, Rice said.
Hammons convinced the victim he needed money for medical treatment and to finance a malpractice claim, from which the victim believed he would receive $4.6 million in repayment, according to a criminal complaint filed in court.
The complaint said the victim needed to borrow money from people to survive while he was waiting for repayment, and that Hammons told him serious consequences, including jail time, could happen to the victim if he told anyone about what was going on.
Hammons also told the victim that he was pursuing the malpractice suit in federal court and that the victim was under surveillance, the criminal complaint said.
Hammons said that if the victim talked to attorneys or police about the matter, he could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison for interfering with a federal case, according to the complaint.
The criminal charge resulted from a joint effort by the Havre Police Department, the Hill County Sheriff's Office, and the Montana Criminal Investigation Bureau. Anyone with information about these charges is urged to call any of the agencies involved.
Rice said his office reminds people to be aware of schemes that appear too good to be true, Family and friends of elderly people should call law enforcement as soon as they suspect any exploitation, he said.
Many cases may not be exploitation, but early reports will assist in investigation and the education of possible victims, Rice said.
Montana law protects people from civil and criminal liability for reporting possible scams if it is done in good faith, he said.