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Richland candidate called out city officials.

He didn’t mention his Nigerian scam conviction

By Wendy Culverwell - Tri-City Herald - 17-11-02
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Lloyd Becker
Lloyd Becker, a controversial candidate for Richland City Council, pleaded guilty in 2006 to fraud and theft charges after he deposited more than $300,000 in bad checks at three local credit unions. He was sentenced to a year in jail and still paying the restitution. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri City-Herald

A controversial Richland City Council candidate who loudly criticized the integrity of other public officials was sentenced to a year in jail after pleading guilty a decade ago to felony fraud and theft charges. He says he was the victim of a Nigerian scam.

Lloyd Becker, who is challenging incumbent Sandra Kent for a seat on the council, was charged after he deposited more than $300,000 in counterfeit checks and money orders at three Tri-City credit unions in 2005 and 2006.

Becker told investigators he was acting on behalf of a Nigerian company by depositing their clients’ checks and then sending money by Western Union to another party in order to pay employees with U.S. dollars.

Becker was paid 5 percent of the total as compensation, according to court documents and Herald news stories at the time.

He was charged with first-degree theft and three counts of fraud in Benton County Superior Court in March 2006. He pleaded guilty that June and was ordered to jail for a year. He also was ordered to pay $20,600 in restitution plus court fees.

On Thursday, Becker acknowledged to the Herald his conviction but characterized it as an old case with little bearing on the present, including on his candidacy.

He reiterated that he was the victim of a version of the notorious Nigerian scam. He said he did not personally create the counterfeit documents and pleaded guilty on the advice of his attorney. He served a year in jail and continues to pay court-ordered restitution.

“That’s all been settled and squared with the state,” he said. “Once you go past the 10-year mark, then they don’t look at that no more.”

The Washington Constitution allows convicted felons to serve in elected office if they are eligible to vote. Vote.org records indicate Becker is registered to vote in Richland.

Becker’s criminal past was brought to the Herald’s attention Thursday by a Richland resident who expressed surprise that Becker’s criminal record had not been reported as part of the campaign. A court search also revealed that he filed for personal bankruptcy in 1997.

The Herald conducted a similar background check on Becker’s opponent and found no criminal or financial issues for Sandra Kent, an attorney who works for a Hanford contractor.

Kent said she was stunned to learn about her opponent’s felony record. “It goes to one’s ability to be honest,” she said.

Becker’s candidacy was already controversial after his complaints about the “integrity problems” of two other women in leadership roles — the city manager and a councilwoman — were viewed as overly aggressive and unnerving.

And last week, the Benton County Republican Party withdrew its endorsement of Becker after he came under added scrutiny for his social media posts, including a 2016 tweet that used a reference to the infamous night of Nazi attacks in 1938 on German, Austrian and Czechoslovakian Jews.

His tweet followed a terrorist attack in Belgium. He has said he did not intend for it to be a Nazi reference.

Becker, 67, said he decided to run after the city council unanimously voted to approve a $20 car tab fee to help fund the Duportail bridge construction and to pay for pavement preservation work. He has said the $20 car tab fee is burdensome on the poor and that the city has other avenues to pay for the project.

According to charges filed by Benton County prosecutors more than a decade ago, Becker opened a checking account at Numerica Credit Union in February 2006. In the following months, he deposited 16 counterfeit checks and money orders totaling more than $114,000.

The largest was a check written on the account of “Charlton Medical Products” in the amount of $75,361. Fourteen deposits were U.S. Postal Service money orders made out for $850 each and purporting to come from a Tom Cayne of Ashland, Penn.

Numerica wasn’t the only victim. Investigators learned HAPO Community Credit Union had previously closed Becker’s account after he deposited counterfeit checks for $47,125, $39,400 and $58,000.

Further investigation revealed that Becker had opened an account at Gesa Credit Union in April 2005.

In June of that year, he deposited a check made out to himself in the amount of $68,500 on the account of Green Shield Canada. The check was returned as counterfeit.

In mid-July, Becker deposited another check for 14,500 pounds sterling, or $25,701 in U.S. currency, drawn on the account of Lloyds TSB. It too was counterfeit but Gesa wired $13,000 on Becker’s behalf to England. Becker retained 5 percent.

Gesa booked a loss of $19,000 related to Becker’s activities, court documents say.

In an apparently unrelated matter, Becker filed for bankruptcy in 1997, listing $3,096 in assets and $19,530 in liabilities. The case was discharged January 1998, in bankruptcy court for Eastern Washington.

The Becker-Kent race is one of four Richland council seats up for election on Nov. 7.

Tags: Nigerian scam, Lloyd Becker, Sandra Kent, first-degree theft

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