by Gwen Moritz
Posted 1/16/2014 02:39 pm
Updated 8 months ago
Rogers businessman Jim Bolt, having failed to win pre-trial release from the Washington County jail, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count each of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering before U.S. District Judge Robert T. Dawson in Fort Smith.
As part of a plea deal with federal prosecutors, 11 additional counts leveled against him by a Fayetteville grand jury will be dismissed, and his trial, scheduled for Jan. 29, has been canceled.
No date for sentencing has been set.
"This case involves serious fraud, including forgery and a course of deceitful conduct designed to steal money from others," U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge of the Western District of Arkansas said in a news release. "Today, Defendant Bolt has been convicted and held accountable for this criminal conduct. Our office remains committed to pursuing and prosecuting fraud, wherever it manifests itself."
Bolt, 60, whose criminal record dates back nearly 40 years, is accused of faking documents in order to claim more than $2 million in cash and stocks listed as unclaimed property by the state of California in three separate but similar schemes between 2010 and 2013.
The FBI raided Bolt's "cancer research center" and other properties in June, and he was arrested in late August. He was originally charged with 12 counts involving two unclaimed property schemes, but two more counts related to a third alleged scheme were later added to the indictment (PDF).
Despite repeated medical complaints, U.S. Magistrate Judge Erin Setser has refused to release him from custody. He was held in the Benton County jail until Dec. 23, when he was transferred to the Washington County jail in Fayetteville.
As the date for his trial approached, activity in the case has heated up. On Jan. 3, Assistant U.S. Attorney Glen R. Hines, who is prosecuting the case, filed notice that he planned to drag Bolt's criminal history into the trial to support its contention that the unclaimed property schemes were consistent with his established "modus operandi."
In a case in Oklahoma from the mid-1970s, according to Hines' notice, Bolt "posed as a law enforcement officer in order to prevent an investigation into a theft offense," Hines wrote. "Indeed, the defendant's criminal history establishes repeated theft offenses where he used deception in order to facilitate the offense."
The prosecutor planned to present evidence that Bolt "posed at various times as a medical doctor … and a PhD operating a cancer clinic…. to provide his 'cancer clinic' and the transaction charged with the trappings of legitimacy."
The government also planned to show that Bolt had a pattern of operating fictitious businesses with imaginary employees.
Bolt continued his efforts to be released from jail pending trial. In a 14-page, handwritten letter (PDF) to Setser dated Jan. 7, Bolt claimed FBI Special Agent Robert Cessario lied when he told the court that Bolt was being investigated as an accessory after the fact in a murder in southwest Missouri. He also recounted his medical problems.
Setser, however, appeared unmoved by the letter. Although Bolt specifically asked that it be filed under seal, it was filed Tuesday as a public document and immediately denied in a perfunctory, one-paragraph order.
"As the Defendant is represented by counsel, the Defendant has no right to file such pro se motions," Setser concluded.
One day later, Bolt signed a plea agreement.