By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Anyone bilked out of money by the former chief financial officer of the Wyoming Catholic College will have 30 days to claim part of the $13 million seized from his personal accounts, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl on Monday granted a request from prosecutors to seize the money from 12 accounts held by Paul McCown and use it to repay the people from whom he stole the money.
Paul McCown, of Lander, pleaded guilty in March to three counts of wire fraud in connection with allegations he exaggerated his own worth to obtain a $14.7 million loan from lending company Ria R Squared.
He also pleaded guilty to allegations he transmitted false information about a home-based gin-distillilng business to the Wyoming Business Council to obtain $841,863 in federal coronavirus relief funds. The coronavirus funds were returned.
As part of a plea agreement, McCown agreed to forfeit about $13.3 million in available funds to the federal government.
Neither the plea agreement nor the pre-sentence investigation being consulted to craft a felony sentence for McCown are publicly accessible. Skavdahl approved the request of prosecutors to seize McCown’s money and advertise its availability to defrauded parties on www.forfeiture.gov.
The notice has not yet been posted to the website, but once it is posted, the defrauded entities will have 30 days to petition for their legal interest in the property. The federal government also is contacting known victims of the fraud.
If any money is not claimed within 30 days, the U.S. government “shall have clear title to the subject property” remaining, court documents state.
Following a petition, a hearing may be held to test the validity of the petitioner’s claim, with false claims punishable by perjury.
McCown has not yet been sentenced in the case.
McCown faces another legal action, a lawsuit filed against him by Ria R Squared, which is asking the federal court to enter a judgement in its favor in its claims against McCown.
In documents filed in April, Ria R Squared said since McCown had pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against him, “there is no just reason for delaying the entry of judgement against (McCown).”
The court has not yet ruled on the request.
Catholic College, Top Official Face Trial
In yet another legal action stemming from the case, Ria R Squared is suing the Wyoming Catholic College and Jonathan Tonkowich, the college’s executive vice president, claiming they have yet to return all the money gifted to them by McCown from the loan.
The firm accused both Tonkowich and the college of “conversion and civil theft” and of violating the Uniform Transfers Act by accepting the funds willingly from McCown.
Ria R Squared accused the college of a third count, negligence, claiming the college has “ratified” McCown’s conduct by “refusing to return” a remaining balance.
McCown had transferred $375,000 to Tonkowich and $10 million to the college, according to court documents. Most of this money has been seized by the FBI.
But the firm claims that WCC still holds about $239,000 of the balance, and that Tonkowich withheld about $73,870. But the firm claims that WCC still holds about $239,000 of the balance, and that Tonkowich withheld about $73,870. WCC denied the allegation in a January court filing, saying it had spent more than that amount from the $10 million before it found out about McCown’s “conduct.”
Tonkowich denied in February that he’d withheld the $73,870.
WCC is slated for a jury trial next March; Tonkowich has a bench trial in his civil case slated for next January.