Accused organized crime leader back in court

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

A judge held an international fugitive suspected of organizing a multistate crime ring without bail Friday following his recent extradition to Clark County.

Fred J. Engh, 30, of Vancouver allegedly fled to Mexico using another person’s passport sometime after posting $100,000 bail and pleading not guilty May 30 to more than 50 felony charges related to the crime ring, said Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Scott Ikata. A warrant was issued for his arrest on July 26.

Engh told Superior Court Judge David Gregerson on Friday that he fled to Mexico to seek medical treatment.

“I was down there without permission,” Engh said. “I had every intention of coming back to … make my court appearance.”

When Ikata requested that Engh be held without bail, Engh responded that “jail isn’t the best place to get medical treatment.” He didn’t disclose his medical condition.

Ikata said he plans to charge Engh with at least one count of bail jumping. That’s on top of Engh’s existing charges, including leading organized crime, money laundering and theft.

The U.S. Marshals Service, with help from Mexican authorities, arrested Engh in early November in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. He was transferred to the San Diego County, Calif., jail and then extradited to Clark County.

The crime ring involved a network of shoplifters who stole merchandise and then returned it for store credit on a gift card, according to court documents. The “boosters” then allegedly sold the gift cards to Engh for 40 to 75 percent of their value, and Engh resold the gift cards online.

The ring operated for a period of at least three years in Washington, Oregon and Nevada, officials say.

Before his arrest in May, Engh was one of 20 members of the board for the Portland-based Meals on Wheels. The organization serves hot meals to needy seniors in the Portland-Vancouver metro area.