By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A lawsuit filed against a former Wyoming Catholic College official accused of defrauding an investment company of $15 million can proceed while his actions are investigated by federal authorities, a judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl, in an order issued Monday, refused Paul McCown’s request to stop proceedings on the lawsuit against him filed by Ria R Squared pending completion of the FBI investigation.
“In considering the various factors and the surrounding circumstances, the court finds a stay is not appropriate in this case,” the order said.
McCown is accused of falsifying financial documents and posing as a bank official to convince Ria R Squared to loan him $15 million.
According to the lawsuit, within minutes of obtaining the loan, McCown transferred most of the money to other people, including relatives, associates and Wyoming Catholic College, where he served as chief financial officer. The college has since returned the $10 million it received.
McCown asked the federal court to stop any action on the lawsuit for 90 days until the FBI could complete its investigation of his actions.
But Skavdahl said since McCown has not yet been indicted or charged with any crimes, it would be best to move ahead with the lawsuit.
“The lack of any current criminal charges means the interests of the court and the public weigh in favor of moving forward in an expeditious manner,” the order said.
Skavdahl noted that in some cases, a danger exists that a person being sued might say something in his or her defense that could be used against that person in a criminal proceeding, meaning the person’s right against self-incrimination would be put at risk.
However, he said since McCown has already invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege to respond to Ria R Squared’s lawsuit, there is no danger he might surrender that right in criminal proceedings.
“…McCown has already chosen to risk the loss in this civil case by exercising his Fifth Amendment right in order to avoid risking conviction in any criminal action,” the ruling said. “A stay of proceedings now cannot protect that which (McCown seeks) to protect.”