By Patrick Winderl/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
A Lloyd man has been sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay $676,000 in restitution for duping an elderly Havre man out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Arthur Warren Hammons, 36, was sentenced Tuesday in state District Court by Judge Dirk Sandefur in connection with his no contest plea to a charge of felony theft. Hammons was sentenced to 10 years in prison with four years suspended, and given credit for 214 days he has served in the Hill County Detention Center.
Sandefur said it was "unconscionable" that Hammons preyed upon an 83-year-old retired farmer to finance a lavish lifestyle.
According to the charging document, Hammons used the money to pay for six late-model cars, a series of luxury vacations, expensive appliances and sports memorabilia.
Sandefur said he believes that Hammons deserves to serve 10 years in prison, but suspended four years so that Hammons can make restitution o the victim. He ordered Hammons to make payments of $800 a month in restitution, with credit for $6,000 in property that police seized.
Hammons was charged in October of 2002 and pleaded no contest June 25.
His wife, Kristie Elaine Hammons, 29, was charged with felony theft seven months after her husband was. Prosecutors agreed to defer prosecution if she pays $9,700 in restitution. That means that the charge will not appear on her record if she makes restitution.
According to court documents, police did not initially believe Kristie Hammons had knowledge of the thefts. In a letter to the Havre Daily News on Tuesday, she said she was unaware that her husband financed their lifestyle through crime.
"I had no reason to believe he was involved in anything dishonest," the letter said. " I thanked God that my husband provided for us and that the creditors weren't beating down the door. My daughter and I unwittingly enjoyed a fairly comfortable lifestyle on (the victim's) money."
Kristie Hammons said in the letter that she feels remorse that she benefited from the thefts.
"Words are inadequate to express how I feel about (the victim) being swindled out of everything he ever earned," her letter said. "The closest I can come is to say that it makes me sick. (The victim) is a decent, trusting man who believed Warren's lies, just as I did."
According to the charging document, Hammons took $676,348 in cash and checks from the victim. Over the course of five years, the elderly man pawned his possessions and took out loans for hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep providing money to Hammons, the document said.
Arthur Hammons asked him for money for land and timber investments and promised him millions from a medical settlement over a nonexistent heart operation, the document said. The Hammonses spent more than $170,000 on three trips to Las Vegas and a cruise, and bought new vehicles with cash, the document said.
Havre police and the Montana Criminal Investigation Bureau began an investigation in April of 2002 after receiving complaints that the alleged victim had "been acting broke" despite receiving income from several sources, the charging document said. Friends said they were worried because the man had been borrowing large sums of money and could not afford to feed himself, the document said.