Sawyers slated for appeals hearing

U.S. Court of Appeals to hear arguments in Bend real estate fraud case

By Sheila G. Miller / The Bulletin

A federal appeals court has agreed to hear the appeal in August of a Bend couple currently serving time in federal prison for real estate fraud.

Former Bend Police Capt. Kevin Sawyer and his wife, former Bend real estate broker Tami Sawyer, went to prison in April 2013 after pleading guilty to crimes that defrauded more than 20 people of more than $4 million between 2004 and 2009.

They filed an appeal five months later, alleging Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken was wrong when she excluded evidence and an expert witness that would have shown the couple didn’t intentionally seek to defraud the investors, and that the net fair-market value of the Sawyers’ properties and companies exceeded the amount of money they owed their investors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Potter answered the appeal by saying the government had two ways of demonstrating the Sawyers’ fraud against their investors. At trial, the government would have shown how the Sawyers lied to investors and banks and demonstrated how they used the money, with both documents and victim testimony.

She further wrote in her appeal brief that evidence of intent or ability to repay victims of fraud isn’t a defense to fraud charges, and that evidence would have confused a jury. The court’s ruling, Potter wrote, didn’t prevent the Sawyers from offering a defense but instead simply ruled against allowing irrelevant evidence that was designed to excuse the couple’s behavior.

Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit will hear those arguments. The 10-minute appeal hearing will take place on Aug. 25 at the William K. Nakamura Courthouse in Seattle. It was not clear from court records if the Sawyers will be present for the argument.

Tami Sawyer’s attorney, Kendra Matthews, did not return a call for comment, nor did Shaun McCrea, attorney for Kevin Sawyer.

Kevin Sawyer pleaded guilty to one count of providing false statements to a financial institution and is serving 27 months at a federal penitentiary in Littleton, Colo., expecting to be released in April 2015. Tami Sawyer pleaded guilty to all 21 counts against her, including fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, and is serving nine years in prison in Dublin, Calif., expecting to be released in February 2021. The couple was also ordered to pay more than $5.8 million in restitution.

— Reporter: 541-617-7831, smiller@bendbulletin.com