Recently acquitted couple going to prison after all

Posted: Thursday, July 24, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) A couple recently acquitted of trying to hire a hit man to kill a federal judge and prosecutor are going to federal prison after all.

The couple was sentenced Tuesday to spend years in prison on related convictions for bank fraud and witness tampering.

U.S. District Judge Owen Panner sentenced Arnold W. Flowers to eight years and four months in prison. Flowers' girlfriend, Sompong Khamsomphou, received five years and three months.

According to the indictment, Khamsomphou, Flowers and two co-conspirators stole about $40,000 in 2001 using confidential account numbers from Wells Fargo Bank. Khamsomphou admitted she acquired the numbers as a bank teller there and supplied them to an acquaintance, her lawyer said.

A federal jury found the pair innocent in June of conspiring to kill U.S. District Judge Russel Holland, assistant U.S. attorney Crandon Randell, and a key government witness in the pending bank fraud case and her boyfriend.

Two separate jury notes to the judge indicated that jurors believed the couple had been entrapped by Flowers' cell mate, who was acting as a government informant, attorneys said then.

Flowers testified on the witness stand that he did not scheme to murder anyone when he paid $500 to an undercover federal agent last year. He said he just wanted to scare the government witness into telling the truth.

Flowers' girlfriend, who was asked to drop off money and photos, testified that she knew nothing about a plot.

A federal agent posed as a hit man and pretended to carry out the hits on the judge and the prosecutor, according to testimony in the case.

After the murder-for-hire trial, Flowers, 28, was convicted of bank fraud in a second trial, while Khamsomphou, 24, pleaded guilty to a single bank fraud charge.

Although they were acquitted of the murder-for-hire charges, Panner said he was taking evidence about that plot into consideration as a factor in his sentencing decisions for the fraud and witness-tampering convictions. He said Flowers bears more responsibility.

''The tapes, the notes, the testimony make clear to me Mr. Flowers knew (murder) was contemplated,'' he said.

Panner, an Oregon federal judge, also increased the sentencing range for both defendants because their plot included threats of physical injury.

Flowers, Khamsomphou and a third defendant, Lisa Chanthaseng, jointly owe $15,000 in restitution for the bank fraud, lawyers said. Chanthaseng agreed to testify for the government in the fraud case.

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