Prosecutor: CoiNuts case reassigned - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Prosecutor: CoiNuts case reassigned

McHugh to work on the case himself

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Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2013 12:00 am

COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Wednesday he will now personally lead his office's work on a case against the now-closed CoiNuts shop in Coeur d'Alene and its owner Kevin E. Mitchell.

McHugh said the CoiNuts case was originally assigned to one deputy prosecutor, but it has grown too large and complex. That deputy has been taken off the case.

He said he and deputy prosecutor Tara Jalali will now begin analyzing documents related to CoiNuts, seeking to determine whether criminal intent existed when dozens of customers lost money in transactions with Mitchell.

"The reality is I'm going to be taking the lead on (the case)," McHugh said. "There certainly are a number of people who said they've lost money, and I believe that to be the case."

Many former CoiNuts customers have told The Press that Mitchell allegedly failed to deliver on purchased gold and silver, and that Mitchell often paid for the metals with bad checks. Mitchell, of Hayden Lake, hasn't responded to requests for comment.

McHugh said he understands the victims' desire to see Mitchell, 47, prosecuted as soon as possible.

"In a case like this it's not the best course" to hurry the process, McHugh said.

His office needs to consider the "full scope of criminal conduct"alleged, and complete a full review of information that includes police reports, bank records and civil lawsuits against Mitchell.

"We're going to take a look at all the information available," McHugh said. "We're going to make a sound (charging) decision."

The Coeur d'Alene Police Department said Tuesday it will continue to work with McHugh's office to seek formal charges stemming from "51 criminal offenses related to (Mitchell's) business practices."

Police Chief Wayne Longo declined to comment on the case.

The Press requested to speak with officers or detectives about CoiNuts and Mitchell. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Christie Wood responded to the request on Tuesday by providing a timeline of "case facts."

According to the timeline, in 2006 two incident reports were filed naming Mitchell in non-sufficient funds checks complaints.

Both cases were sent to the prosecutor's office "where they were declined prosecution due to it being a civil matter," Wood said.

Jump to 2010, when five more similar reports were filed against Mitchell, but prosecution again was declined for similar reasons.

On July 27, 2011, a non-sufficient funds report was filed against Mitchell, and Coeur d'Alene police detectives referred it to the "check-enforcement program" operated by the prosecutor's office.

On Aug. 5, 2011, the first report was filed for grand theft against CoiNuts, which was located at 296 W. Sunset Ave., just off U.S. 95. Several more reports followed.

On Sept. 20, 2011, police detectives interviewed Mitchell for approximately two hours, when he denied any intent to defraud customers.

"He said he had agreements in place with the people he wrote checks to and they didn't follow the agreement," Wood said. "He blamed the customer."

Less than a month later, Det. Brandon McCormick sent what police called "complaint requests" to McHugh's office for charges of criminal conspiracy and another felony for passing bad checks.

On Nov. 21, 2011, detectives obtained a search warrant and executed it to collect Mitchell's banking records, then provided that evidence to prosecutors.

Through 2012, police continued to receive additional reports involving Mitchell, with the final one received on Aug. 22. Those reports also were forwarded to prosecutors, Wood said.

On July 3, 2012, police requested that a charging decision be made.

On July 20, detectives requested at least one charge be filed and asked for a warrant to put Mitchell in jail.

"The prosecutor (who was) assigned stated that it was a very large case, and she had read through it once and was in the process of reading it again," Wood said.

On July 25, the police department received notification that the prosecutor's office had declined to prosecute.

Additional reports flowed into the police department in August about Mitchell and CoiNuts, Wood said.

Finally, on Nov. 9, Det. McCormick met with deputy prosecutor Shawn Glen and McHugh.

Wood said Glen and McHugh didn't believe they could "prove intent to defraud due to the civil agreements the victims had entered into with Mitchell."

Many of the victims agreed to take post-dated checks from Mitchell, Wood said, or agreed to delays in payment from him.

"(Prosecutors) declined to file charges for all of the cases," Wood said.

At one point, however, Sarah M. Mitchell, 30, Kevin Mitchell's step-daughter, had been charged with six felonies for work at CoiNuts. Those charges were dismissed in November by McHugh's office. Sarah Mitchell worked at CoiNuts.

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  • Diamond Jim posted at 6:54 pm on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    Diamond Jim Posts: 54

    McHugh himself is a competent, capable lawyer I'm sure. But competence in supervising his attorneys in an important case with many victims is questionable. Relations with the cops need to be repaired too. Perhaps it would be wise for him to bring in an outside prosecutor to assist with special skills. I do hope that justice prevails for the victims.

  • Diamond Jim posted at 10:56 am on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    Diamond Jim Posts: 54

    McHugh is incompetent. Period.

  • Rogue Cop posted at 1:08 pm on Fri, Mar 15, 2013.

    Rogue Cop Posts: 2371

    Unscrupulous business practice doesn't necessarily equate to criminality, BUT a pattern of such practices tends show intent, and if you have the intent, you have a crime. Sure seems like the Prosecutor's Office dropped the ball on this. It also depends on the wording in the contracts but this case sure smacks of fraud. A lot of work left to be done and there could be federal charges as well.

    There is no case against the CdA police department or the city of CdA unless they kissed off some of these reports. The sheriffs department is out of the loop because the crimes occurred in CdA jurisdiction. To me, this is clearly the Prosecutor's screw-up.

  • sdpd92 posted at 11:43 am on Fri, Mar 15, 2013.

    sdpd92 Posts: 158


  • Spikey posted at 9:59 am on Fri, Mar 15, 2013.

    Spikey Posts: 387

    concernedcitizen, you are off the mark here. If law enforcement turns over complaints to the prosecutors office and those complaints are refused by that office, law enforcement has done their job. They could have arrested this man and if McHugh refused to prosecute, it is all over. Direct your ire where it belongs. I don't know where, or given his past record, even if McHugh went to law school, but he is a poor speciman of legal acumen. When there is a measurable stack of complaints alleging the same behavior, that becomes a clear pattern of intent to least in the other 49 states! Yes, this man is a crook. Everyone except McHugh can clearly see this. But, while I have great sympathy for the victims and in no way excuse Mitchell, why in the world would anyone write a $50,000. check for merchandise not in their possession. A small deposit, maybe. But when I turn over $50K, I have the merchandise in my hand. PT Barnum said it and scam artists depend on it.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 7:51 am on Fri, Mar 15, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    It is time for ALL government employees to expose corruption and dereliction of duty.They need to be held accountable for their responsibilities to the TAXPAYER instead of other agencies.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 7:40 am on Fri, Mar 15, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    Excuse me...... over 50 counts. No sir, that is CRIMINAL. The police and sheriff could and SHOULD have even gone as far as filing a complaint to the AG over the lack of professionalism in the prosecutors office. This man needs to be behind bars for some time to think about what he has done PLUS pay restitution with everything he owns until it is paid back or all of his possessions are gone. If the prosecutor is to busy then he needs to turn the case over to someone else. Contract out or something. Judges need to be on the bench a minimum of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week with NO special recesses and doing their job as well until ALL cases are caught up.

  • skunkworks posted at 7:57 pm on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    skunkworks Posts: 252

    "If Anything".. I could see where if the Local Law Enforcement knew or has had Multiple complaints "Early On" They Could Have prevented Him from Obtaining More & More Victims...

    On the Other hand Mr:Mitchell's Attorney could Argue the same thing in His Defense...

    This is why "Law Enforcement" Needs to Act on these Complaints As Soon as They Receive them...

  • KeepinItReal posted at 7:19 pm on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    KeepinItReal Posts: 112

    Concernedcitizen, please tell us how these people might have a case against the cda police department, the city of cda, the sheriffs department, or the county? It sounds like the cdapd did their investigation properly, and the sheriffs department has nothing to do with it whatsoever. So please explain to all of us how and why you feel that either department, or the city & county for that matter are responsible here. I understand people are emotional and want justice and/or their money back; and im not saying this business owner shouldnt be held accountable somehow, but like every city & county office in kc, im sure the prosecutors office is swamped with other criminal cases that also need to be addressed. And since this could very well be a civil issue, this case may be more suited for civil court.

  • Mary Souza posted at 3:35 pm on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    Mary Souza Posts: 814

    Kudos to the CdA Press for reporting on this story multiple times. It appears the press coverage and the subsequent public outrage have finally ignited some action in the Prosecutor's office.

  • Why Not posted at 1:59 pm on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    Why Not Posts: 5326

    I'm not an attorney but I can see a Big Problem here. What don't you all not understand about entering into a contract? How can the police department or the prosecutor go after this FSOS if the people who were scammed allowed the slime to walk all over their rights?

    Someone posted the name and web address of a company alleged to be Mitchell the other day, After checking it out, it does seem like the FSOS may be back at it and using a Post Falls address. The sites Face Book page was covered with a number of angry recently swindled clients looking for their goods. If it looks too good to be true, sounds too good to be true, requires secretive deals and post dated checks. There’s a pretty good chance it's a scam folks. Never invest in something you do not understand.

  • babydriver posted at 12:18 pm on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    babydriver Posts: 1393

    Isn't it the truth? I agree with everything you said.

    Government is out of control at ALL levels. We do not have a government, we have controllers.

    And all the new bullying stories? The controllers bully the populace at every opportunity.

  • skunkworks posted at 12:07 pm on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    skunkworks Posts: 252

    Wheres the Multiple fraud charges??? Is it not against the LAW Especially for a Business to Conduct itself so Fraudulently??? And what about Theft Charges???...Also Forgery Charges??? I understand that there are allot of victims but "Arrest" him on a Single count At "Least" to start the Criminal Process so when he's Convicted All the Civil Suits can take Place...

    So if a case is Deemed to large for the Prosecutors its Simply Not Prosecuted..???

    Mr McHugh: Your Office will charge a Kid with a "Felony" for stealing 1 piece of gum...So why not Charge Mr Mitchell for Fraud .??? Doesn't make Sense... And to Blame the Victims is just Another Slap in their Face!!!!

  • babydriver posted at 12:02 pm on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    babydriver Posts: 1393

    San Diego Police Department?

  • donmac posted at 11:14 am on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    donmac Posts: 7

    I read the article and am astounded by the comments in a case like this it's not the best course to hurry the process." These guy's a cover your actions officials.

    Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were discovered, prosecuted, tired, convicted and executed in half the time Mr. McHugh has had to do the right thing.

    What a manifestation of incompetency -- on so many levels. Just enough levels so that these morosophs (A philosophical or learned fool) can point the finger at one another and never accept responsibility.

    Coeur d’Alene Press is exposing a huge corruption and miscarriage of justice system that far exceeds the Mitchell's of CoiNuts.

    Don Macdonald - swindled $16,500

  • sdpd92 posted at 9:34 am on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    sdpd92 Posts: 158

    I just re-read the article. Talk about poor leadership on McHugh’s part. The very first line states “Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said Wednesday he will now personally lead his office's work on a case against the now-closed CoiNuts shop in Coeur d'Alene and its owner Kevin E. Mitchell.”

    What has he been paid for all this time? Isn’t he “leading” all the time? If he’s the leader, isn’t it his responsibility to ensure that this case didn’t fall by the wayside? Isn’t it his fault this is so screwed up and so many people have been hurt?

    I understand about delegating authority but as any supervisor out there knows a leader supervises and gives direction as needed. This case appears to have needed supervision and direction all the way back in 2006.

    Seven years of theft and fraud appears to be a pattern of crimes that even our Prosecuting Attorney can see. What does that say about the people working in that office? If it takes seven years for our Prosecuting Attorney to see a pattern and then to get involved in “his” job, then we are in real trouble.

    In the article, it states “His office needs to consider the "full scope of criminal conduct" alleged, and complete a full review of information that includes police reports, bank records and civil lawsuits against Mitchell.” That office has been doing nothing but that for seven years. How many years does it take? By considering the "full scope of criminal conduct" alleged” how many other people will be stolen from and hurt? After the first crimes were reported, how many other people were hurt and stolen from because McHugh needed “to consider the "full scope of criminal conduct" alleged” instead of prosecuting the individual crimes at the time.

    I’m sure McHugh would say with Mitchell’s business being closed that the illegal activity has been stopped. My suspicions are that as long as Mitchell is out of jail the illegal activity will continue somewhere.

    In the article it states “McHugh said the CoiNuts case was originally assigned to one deputy prosecutor, but it has grown too large and complex. That deputy has been taken off the case.” Why would you take somebody off the case? If his people are competent wouldn’t you just augment the team already in place? And if McHugh is taking personal command of the team or the “lead on the case” wouldn’t those people stay in place? It seems the people on the team should know the most about the case. Why wouldn’t he continue to use those people?

    It really is too bad so many people had to be hurt or financially ruined because of the poor leadership in this office.

  • sdpd92 posted at 8:29 am on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    sdpd92 Posts: 158

    Talk about leading from behind. I may be a republican but I sure didn't vote for this guy. Maybe he's taken lessons from the current administration. The leadership he has provided in his office appears to be very poor. If it isn't a slam dunk, or is "complicated" and can't be plea bargained away or stonewalled then it's not worth taking a chance on.

    In this case, cudos to the CDA Press for keeping this on the front page or nothing would be done.

    Let's continue to watch the case and see how fast charges are presented in court. It sounds like the CDA PD has wanted charges all along.

  • ancientemplar posted at 7:35 am on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    ancientemplar Posts: 1287

    If the amounts that have been recently reported in the Cd'A Mess are accurate, and that's always suspect, it has been a little more than a civil issue for a long time. Sounds like ol' Barry has been a sleep at the wheel.
    Politics is always on the top of the list.

  • concernedcitizen posted at 6:18 am on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    concernedcitizen Posts: 2530

    sounds like these people might have a case against the CdA police dept, the city, sheriffs dept and county.

  • voxpop posted at 5:41 am on Thu, Mar 14, 2013.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    Sounds like Barry smells some good press. But then he is INFINITELY more competent than any of his deputies ... which he hired. And they don't call him Ear-to-the-ground Barry for nothing.

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