Kelly also was acquitted of five counts of money laundering in his retrial on charges stemming from his operation of a now-shuttered business that prosecutors alleged failed to refund millions dollars in unused closing fees paid by homebuyers.
Former state Auditor Troy Kelley was convicted of nine felony charges in federal court in Tacoma on Wednesday, including counts of possession of stolen property, making false declarations in a court proceeding and tax fraud.
The verdicts came in a retrial on charges stemming from his operation of a now-shuttered business that prosecutors alleged failed to refund millions of dollars in unused closing fees paid by homebuyers.
Kelley, a Democrat elected in 2012 who served a single term — several months of it on leave and under pressure to resign — last year fought federal prosecutors to a draw on 14 of 15 felony charges, winning an acquittal on one charge alleging he lied to the Internal Revenue Service. This time around, Kelley faced 14 felony counts.
Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said the jury returned with the verdicts following two days of deliberations after hearing evidence in a complicated 21-day trial. The panel acquitted Kelley of five counts of money laundering, she said.
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Kelley faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced March 30 by U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton.
Kelley’s Seattle defense attorney, Angelo Calfo, said they were surprised with the verdicts.
“But we also are aware that this jury in three separate notes told the court that they could not reach a verdict on all or some of the counts,” Calfo said. “This was not a case that should have been brought and the jury obviously struggled with its decision. We will do whatever we can to overturn these verdicts because an injustice has taken place.”
Like last year’s trial, the prosecution this time was hard-fought, with conflicting testimony by expert witnesses, hundreds of exhibits and complex explanations of the real-estate escrow process.
Kelley’s attorneys contended that he was being targeted by federal agents under pressure to build a case against him.
Kelley took seven months of leave amid his prosecution last year and did not seek re-election.
The government’s case stemmed from business dealings Kelley was engaged in from roughly 2003 through 2008, before he was elected state auditor.
He had formed a company, Post Closing Department, and created a niche business whose sole job was to file and track reconveyance documents for real-estate escrow firms. Prosecutors allege that Kelley agreed to charge a fee of between $15 and $20 for each transaction.
The escrow companies, however, paid Post Closing Department as much as $140 for each job, with the extra money available to pay any other expenses, like county recording and other fees. Prosecutors allege the remaining money was supposed to be refunded to the homebuyer, but instead was pocketed by Kelley.
At one point, the government seized more than $900,000 from Kelley, although it was returned to him after trial. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thursday that it continues to have a legal interest in Kelley’s assets, including his Tacoma home.
Kelley came under investigation by the IRS and the FBI after his successful 2012 campaign for auditor when his opponent pointed to a 2009 lawsuit alleging that Post Closing Department failed to refund the real-estate fees to homebuyers. A grand jury in 2015 made him the first state official indicted in more than 40 years.
Kelley paid $1.1 million to settle that lawsuit, which had been filed by Old Republic Title Co.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson launched his own investigation after it was learned that Kelley had hired a former business partner for a long-distance, part-time state job. That investigation is ongoing, the Attorney General’s Office said.