Government seizes $908,000 paid by state auditor Troy Kelley to a Seattle law firm as a retainer, claiming the money was stolen from his defunct company’s clients.
A forensic accountant key to the FBI’s tax-evasion and money-laundering investigation into Washington state Auditor Troy Kelley is being questioned in a criminal investigation and audited by the Internal Revenue Service, according to recently filed court documents.
Federal prosecutors made the disclosure in a warrant used by agents to seize $908,000 paid by Kelley to a Seattle law firm as a retainer for his former lawyer. The government alleges the money is illegal proceeds from his now-defunct real-estate reconveyance company.
The FBI accountant was working in the private sector as a comptroller for an undisclosed Seattle firm and has been interviewed by FBI agents from another district in a criminal investigation that has already led to one person being charged with tax evasion.
However, prosecutors in Seattle said in an affidavit that the FBI accountant — responsible for the analysis that led to a 17-count indictment against Kelley — has not been formally notified that he is the subject of an investigation and that the government “does not anticipate seeking charges” against him.
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The documents do not offer additional details on the investigation nor do they name the forensic accountant.
The revelation is made deep in a 26-page warrant filed last week by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which seized the retainer that Kelley paid to the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine for his former attorney, Mark Bartlett.
The government says that money can be traced to more than $1.4 million they allege Kelley stole from clients of his now-defunct reconveyance business, Post Closing Department.
Kelley, a Democrat elected in 2012, has taken a leave of absence.
In another development, prosecutors allege Kelley paid a friend and former business associate, Jason Jerue, nearly $20,000 during a time when Jerue was being sought for questioning by lawyers representing Old Republic Title, which had sued Kelley for failing to refund reconveyance fees to its clients between 2005 and 2008.
Jerue, who was Post Closing Department’s vice president, could not be located and was never questioned in the lawsuit despite extraordinary efforts to find him, according to court documents.
Kelley later hired Jerue as a long-distance employee of the auditor’s office and allowed him to work from his home in Southern California.
The handling of reconveyance fees by Post Closing Department is the basis of the 17-count grand-jury indictment against Kelley alleging tax evasion and money laundering.
The state Attorney General’s Office is investigating Jerue’s employment.
Kelley has said he has done nothing wrong. Gov. Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and legislative leaders have called for his resignation.
The payments to Jerue were revealed in a motion by the U.S. Attorney’s Office asking U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton in Tacoma to conduct an inquiry into whether Kelley’s new attorney, Seattle trial lawyer Angelo Calfo, has a conflict of interest.
Calfo briefly represented Jerue’s mother, Sandy Evans, who the government said may be a witness in its case.
Court documents allege that Kelley gave Jerue a $9,980 check in September 2011, shortly after the Old Republic Title lawsuit was settled for nearly $1.2 million.
Kelley wrote a second check for $9,985 to Jerue’s mother in July 2012. Jerue has told prosecutors that the money was intended for him but was funneled through his mother to hide it from his wife.
In March 2013, Jerue began to work for the auditor’s office as a technical writer from his home in California, according to court documents.
A hearing is scheduled Friday where Calfo said he expects the conflict issue will be discussed.