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Source: Bonner County Daily Bee
Author: Keith Kinnaird
Judge sentences salesmen in theft case
Charges followed demise of North 95
Original Article

SANDPOINT - Two salesmen accused of ripping off customers at their failed used car lot in Ponderay were sentenced on Friday.

Senior District Judge James Michaud sentenced Arnold Albert Dreier Sr. to no less than one but no more than five years in prison on charges of racketeering, grand theft and failing to deliver certificate of title.

Dreier's son, Cody, was sentenced to spend 18 months to four years in prison following his conviction for grand theft and failing to deliver title. 

Jurisdiction was retained in Cody Dreier's case, which means he will serve at least six months at the North Idaho Correctional Institution at Cottonwood before becoming eligible for parole.

The duo was also ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution.

A Bonner County jury found Arne Dreier, 66, guilty in June 2005. Cody Dreier, 33, pleaded guilty to lone counts of grand theft and failing to deliver title as part of plea agreement, which required him to testify at his father's trial.

The metallic clacking of handcuffs on both defendants' wrists signaled the end of a court saga dating back to 2003, when a grand jury indicted the two former owners of North 95 Auto Sales.

The two were accused of engaging in a pattern of racketeering in order to commit theft and fraud.

The two allegedly used money customers paid for warranty plans to sustain their flagging business, selling vehicles without settling liens that had been placed against them, and withholding certificates of title.

The elder Dreier was further accused of falsifying business documents to escape responsibility for North 95's failure and its debts.

Sentencing began late last year, but didn't wrap up until early this year because a restitution agreement was still being finalized.

Izzy Robertson, Cody Dreier's counsel, painted her client as the fall guy in North 95's demise during an earlier segment of the sentencing hearing in December 2005.

"Cody was never in charge of managing the books," Robertson said. "It's my understanding Cody did not have the business acumen to have created this type of situation where he would have been robbing Peter to pay Paul. He was a salesman not a manager."

Cody Dreier told the court North 95's failure and ensuing legal entanglements cost him his relationship with his father.

"I'm very sorry for what happened," he said. "It was a tough lesson to learn."

Arne Dreier's attorney, Mark Jones, sought to distribute the fault more evenly. He said Arne has essentially lost everything, but still tried to make financial amends with North 95 customers.

"It was just too big of a snowball to try and stand in front of and hold, and finally it rolled over on both of them. And it got both of them," Jones said.

For his part, Arne Dreier said he and Cody never set out to rip people off.

"Both of us did the best we could. We never tried to take advantage of anyone. It was blown out of proportion," Arne Dreier said.

The state's motivation in the Dreier cases was discussed at length during the earlier phase of the hearing. Jones essentially accused the prosecution of ego-driven showboating.

Michaud took note of a comment made by Paula Parsons, an accountant who worked for the Dreiers. Parsons said in a letter to a pre-sentence investigator that the prosecution failed to understand to fully understand the essence of a business failure, prompting Michaud to ask her to elaborate on the stand.

"I see business failures all the time where people take money and they don't take it at that moment thinking that they're not going to be able to do it (sustain the business). They take it thinking, 'Well, tomorrow something will happen. Something will turn around,'" said Parsons.

Deputy Prosecutor Louis Marshall wasn't buying the defense's efforts to cast Arne Dreier as a victim.

"Things are sort of turned on their head. Suddenly, Mr. Arne Dreier became a victim of the evil state and we heard a lot about restitution being made and we heard a lot about making victims whole," Marshall said. "I would ask the court where is the evidence of that?"

Prosecutor Phil Robinson said the case began when people began paying money for titles and warranties they never received. When spurned customers sought their titles, they were stonewalled, lied to and in some cases threatened with having their rigs repossessed, he said.

"It was basically fraud. It was a business practice that was being done," he said.