Today was supposed to mark the start of a marathon three-day sentencing hearing for Wes Rhodes, an Oregon City investment adviser who pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering.
That hearing is postponed, but there are plenty of strange twists and shenanigans to report, including anonymous letters, the revelation of a hidden $38,000 stash, and Rhodes reporting to police that he was the victim of a drive-by shooting.
Here's our official update to the Rhodes saga.
As chronicled in a WW cover story
last year, Rhodes (pictured above) is accused of stealing at least $24.6 million from about 60 investors and spending the money on luxury items that included a private museum filled with muscle cars and sports memorabilia at his former home in West Linn.
Rhodes could not be reached for comment but has repeatedly denied WW's past requests for an interview.
After the three days that were allotted this week for investors to unload on Rhodes in U.S. District Court, Rhodes faced a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Federal prosecutors recommended up to 10 years in a plea bargain, but the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Probation Office asked for at least 17 years, according to Tim Merrihew, an investor who lost more than $1 million in the alleged scam.
But the sentencing was postponed indefinitely last month when Rhodes' lawyer, Jacob Wieselman, withdrew from the case. Judge Ancer Haggerty instead scheduled a conference date for April 21.
Merrihew worries that a new lawyer could argue that Rhodes' past legal representation was incompetent, calling his guilty plea into question and starting the case over from scratch. Meanwhile, Rhodes will continue to live free in the $438,000 home he bought in his wife's name just weeks before he was indicted
There have been a number of dramatic (and melodramatic) developments in the case since the original WW cover story and Rhodes' guilty plea
on Aug. 7.
On July 9, investors began receiving anonymous letters defending Rhodes and claiming he was the greatest man that the writer had ever known. Merrihew says he's sure those letters came from Rhodes because the names and addresses they were sent to included the same typos that were in Rhodes' official mailings to his investors.
On Aug. 17, 19 of Rhodes' muscle cars were sold off at the world-renowned Bonhams and Butterfields auction in Pebble Beach, Calif., for $1.9 million. It was a disappointing price for the affected investors, who hope to pocket a portion of that money and other funds recovered when the case is finished.
On Sept. 29, some of the sports and pop-culture memorabilia from Rhodes' private museum was auctioned off at his former West Linn home. Total revenue: $200,000.
The Secret Stash
Rhodes was ordered by the court to account for all his assets and turn over all his financial records, so that a federally appointed receiver could sort through how much of his money and belongings are owed to the affected investors. Rhodes claimed to have turned over all such information and accounted for all of his assets.
But on Oct. 16, Merrihew uncovered a computer filled with investors' records that the receiver never knew existed. Merrihew also found a secret storage unit Rhodes kept in Wilsonville that contained $38,000 cash, Rolex watches, jewelry and 30 bank boxes filled with investor records. Those are now in the hands of the receiver.
Contempt of Court
As a result of the secret stash being found, Rhodes' wife, Anne, was ruled in contempt of court on Dec. 18. Rhodes, who affected investors describe as a hypochondriac, skipped that court hearing because he complained of chest pains. He was ruled in contempt of court on Jan. 4.
On Feb. 25, according to Merrihew, Rhodes told Oregon City police he was shot in the head with a rifle wielded by a man in a passing van. Merrihew says Rhodes gave police a list of several likely suspects, including Merrihew. Police investigated and ruled that a superficial scratch on Rhodes' head was likely the result of a fall, not a shooting, according to Merrihew. Oregon City police have not yet released their report.
Rhodes' next court hearing is scheduled for April 21, when Rhodes' new attorney (who has yet to be officially appointed) is expected to ask Judge Haggerty for more time to work on the case.
Stay tuned to WW for more on the Rhodes saga.
NOTE: This story has been changed from its original version, after Tim Merrihew corrected his earlier version of federal prosecutors' statements to investors. Information based on his earlier statement has been deleted.