Billings woman gets prison for military fraud, bribery scheme

2013-01-28T16:50:00Z 2013-02-01T00:19:58Z Billings woman gets prison for military fraud, bribery schemeBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

A history of white-collar crimes caught up with a Billings woman Monday when a federal judge ordered her to spend more than eight years in federal prison for running a scheme to defraud and bribe the U.S. military.

Ashley Ann Lamere, 32, also known as Ashley Ann Thompson, apologized but had no explanation for why she committed the crimes.

“I’m ashamed to be standing here. I beg for mercy. I know my priorities have changed,” she said.

A mother of three young children, Lamere said it never occurred to her until federal agents knocked on her door that she could lose her children and go to prison for bribing military staffers.

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull rejected Lamere’s request for a five-year term and sentenced her to eight years and four months. The sentence was the low end of a guideline range that went to about 10 years. He also imposed $33,823 restitution to Wal-Mart and a $244,890 monetary judgment in lieu of a forfeiture. He dismissed six other counts.

Cebull noted that greed drove Lamere to develop the scheme.

Also troubling, Cebull said, was that after Lamere was indicted and released pending trial on federal charges, she and others defrauded Wal-Mart in a fake check cashing scheme. Lamere fled authorities and eventually was arrested in Oklahoma.

Lamere pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud and to bribery for a scheme in which she operated nine companies and pitched office supplies mostly to the military through telemarketing from 2008 until 2010. Lamere billed government credit cards without authorization, billed more than the amount authorized and bribed officials with cash and gifts to buy additional supplies, prosecutors said.

While running the military bribery scheme, Lamere was on state probation for two felony convictions in Gallatin County for forging and issuing bad checks.

Cebull agreed with the prosecution that Lamere was a danger to the community.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr said Lamere should get a high-end sentence.

Lamere “lived like a rock star,” Fehr said. Lamere traveled in style, stayed at fancy resorts, ran up a $35,000 bill at Kay Jewelers, bought jewelry at Tiffany and Co., rented two homes and drove Cadillac vehicles, she said.

Lamere also received at least $244,890 that could be directly tied to her as a result of bribes to 13 identified military people, although about $2.9 million could be attributed to her spending, Fehr said.

Investigators interviewed 24 procurement officers and 17 of them admitted taking bribes in exchange for placing orders with Lamere’s companies. Most of the workers were disciplined either through formal or informal military processes, including courts-marital, Fehr said.

Two other co-defendants also have been sentenced. Former Billings resident Jodi Adkins Birdinground, of Thornton, Colo., who worked for Lamere, was sentenced to three years of probation for her role in the bribery scheme. Krista Lynn Martinez, of Billings, who was convicted in the Wal-Mart check scheme, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years for wire fraud and aggravated identity theft and ordered to pay $9,116 restitution.

Lamere’s federal sentence settled Wal-Mart claims in Wyoming but cases still are pending in three other states, Fehr said.

 

 

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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