No charges for sister of suspected crime ring leader

She could still be charged pending further investigation

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

Prosecutors have decided to not file charges against the sister of a fugitive accused of operating an organized crime ring throughout Washington, Oregon and Nevada.

Amanda K. Engh, 33, of Vancouver was arrested in August on suspicion of money laundering, criminal profiteering and criminal conspiracy related to a crime ring allegedly operated by her brother, Fred J. Engh, 30, of Vancouver.

Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Scott Ikata said Amanda Engh's exoneration was based on a lack of sufficient evidence. He said further investigation is pending and that she could still be charged with those crimes.

Meanwhile, Fred Engh, a former Meals on Wheels board member, remains at large. He is accused of coordinating a complex crime operation involving a cadre of shoplifters who stole merchandise from retailers and then returned the merchandise for store credit on gift cards. The shoplifters allegedly then sold the gift cards to Engh below market value. Engh is accused of selling the fraudulently obtained gift cards online and turning a profit of hundreds of thousands of dollars over at least a three-year period.

Fred Engh was arrested and made his first court appearance on the allegations May 16. He then allegedly jumped his $100,000 bail and vanished shortly after a May 30 court hearing, where he pleaded not guilty to more than 50 criminal charges, including leading organized crime, money laundering and theft.

Law enforcement and Vancouver's A-Affordable Bail Bonds have been trying to determine his whereabouts ever since. According to court documents, the bail bonds company contracted a bail enforcement agent to investigate leads and conduct surveillance of places where Fred Engh might go.

The Clark County Sheriff's Office has asked for the public's assistance in locating Fred Engh, who is considered armed and dangerous. He is described as 6 feet tall and 215 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes.

Amanda and Fred Engh lived together, along with Amanda's husband, Michael Sokimi, at a home in Vancouver's Wildwood neighborhood at the time of Fred Engh's arrest in May.

Bank deposits, texts

Amanda Engh was arrested Aug. 1 on suspicion of opening at least one bank account and using it to help her brother hide and divide profits from gift card sales to avoid suspicion and evade taxation, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in court.

She was also accused of buying, selling and receiving the fraudulently obtained gift cards.

Text messages between the siblings suggested that Amanda Engh was aware that the enterprise was illegal, Sheriff's Detective Chris Luque wrote in the affidavit. She mentioned "suspicious activity reports" and "red flags," Luque wrote.

Between January 2012 and May 2013, Amanda Engh allegedly deposited $184,192 into a bank account she opened at Columbia Credit Union. Twenty-five of the 26 deposits were from online retailer Amazon, where Fred Engh allegedly sold some of the gift cards.

Fred Engh's attorney, Josephine Townsend, has said he viewed the online sales as his legitimate business. She said when he bought gift cards from sellers, he specifically warned them that he wouldn't buy cards obtained through illegal means.

Engh was one of 20 members of the board for the Portland-based Meals on Wheels before his arrest in May.

The organization serves hot meals to seniors in the Portland-Vancouver metro area.

Sheriff's investigators ask anyone who sees Fred Engh to immediately call 911 and to not approach him. Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to contact Luque, chris.luque@clark.wa.gov, or the sheriff's warrants unit, 360-397-2397.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts; http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com