Former Stevensville attorney Ronald Dean Lords, who last July admitted to defrauding investors and to evading income taxes in a real estate investment scheme in which he lost more than $1 million in the futures market, was sentenced this month to three years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release.
“Lords used his attorney-client relationship to gain access to victims’ money and then abused their trust to gamble away their money in the futures market. Lords also tried to cheat on his income taxes by failing to declare investors’ money as income. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will continue to catch and convict white collar criminals, hold them accountable and seek justice for victims,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson in a press release.
The case was investigated by the FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Racicot.
The government alleged that Lords was a lawyer, who operated Eagles Landing Legal Services, PC, as well as a licensed realtor and general contractor, who operated Eagles Landing Construction, Inc. The construction company purported to develop real property and build homes. From June 2011 to September 2018, in Ravalli County, Lords defrauded several victims by convincing them to invest money in his construction company.
Lords told them he would make monthly interest payments, use the money to build homes and repay the money after the homes were sold. Lords said he would return the victims’ money within 30 days of any request. Instead of using the money to fund construction projects as promised, Lords used a portion of the new money to make interest payments to prior investors and lost the majority of the funds in the futures market. When some victims demanded their principal back, Lords admitted he lost more than $1 million in the futures market and did not have their money.
The government also alleged that Lords failed to declare $432,608 he received from several victims in 2015 as “other income” on his taxes, resulting in unpaid taxes of $152,734 for that year.
Initially charged with 19 counts – six for wire fraud, nine for money laundering and four for filing false tax returns – Lords was facing a maximum 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the wire fraud charge; 10 years in prison, a $250,00 fine and three years of supervised release on the money laundering charge and three years in prison, a $100,000 fine and one year of supervised release on the false tax returns charge.
At the sentencing hearing on November 10, however, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy dismissed all but three of the counts, and sentenced Lords on only one count each for fraud, money laundering and filing false tax returns. He was sentenced to serve three years on each count with the sentences running concurrently.
According to an article in the Billings Gazette, at the sentencing hearing Lords apologized to the court for his actions and his attorney noted that he had made significant strides in repaying a handful of victims. It also mentions that victim impact statements were given by two of the 14 people that Lords took money from. Stan Hendrickson is quoted as saying “I truly believe the man has no moral conscience and should be sentenced accordingly.” Lords has been disbarred from practicing law in Montana. He is ordered to not engage in any gambling or wagering activities when released from prison. He is also prohibited from entering casinos.