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NORTH DAKOTA NEWS: Phony lawyer sentenced ... Group breaks meeting law ... Fume site no threat ... more

Phony lawyer sentenced A man accused of impersonating a lawyer in at least 10 states has been sentenced to more than four years in prison and ordered to repay more than $150,000 to clients around the country. A Bismarck jury convicted Howard O. K...

Phony lawyer sentenced

A man accused of impersonating a lawyer in at least 10 states has been sentenced to more than four years in prison and ordered to repay more than $150,000 to clients around the country.

A Bismarck jury convicted Howard O. Kieffer in April on charges of mail fraud and false statements. Authorities said Kieffer lied on his application to practice law in federal court but still represented such clients as a former St. Louis Blues hockey player who pleaded guilty to plotting to kill his agent.

Kieffer, 54, Duluth, did not speak and showed no emotion when sentenced Friday.

His attorney, Joshua Lowther, Savannah, Ga., said he expects to appeal.


U.S. District Judge Patrick Conmy approved prosecutors' recommendation that Kieffer serve four years and three months in prison and pay restitution totaling $152,750 to clients in five criminal cases since 2007.

At Kieffer's trial, two witnesses told the jury they each paid Kieffer at least $20,000 to appeal prison sentences for their loved ones, only to find out later that he wasn't a lawyer. One of Kieffer's former clients, a Colorado woman found guilty of hiring a hit man, is appealing her case based on his conviction.

"The payments were made by desperate people facing desperate decisions and shattered lives," Conmy said.

He acknowledged the restitution order was probably a "feel good, meaningless gesture," because the likelihood of Kieffer repaying the entire amount is low.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Hagler said Kieffer also owes the Internal Revenue Service about $2 million after a conviction for filing false tax returns two decades ago. Court records show Kieffer was convicted of theft and filing false tax returns and served time in a federal prison from 1989 to 1992.

He was charged in North Dakota last year after one of his clients, a man accused of child pornography, wrote to a federal judge in Bismarck, raising questions about whether Kieffer had ever been a licensed attorney.

Kieffer was the director of Federal Defense Associates in Santa Ana, Calif., and ran an Internet discussion group on federal prison and sentencing issues. He has been quoted in publications as an expert and has spoken at seminars, authorities said.

Lowther said most of Kieffer's work came from referrals by legitimate attorneys. The attorneys who testified during his trial that they thought Kieffer was one of their colleagues because he seemed to know about federal court matters and they saw him at attorney training seminars.


Kieffer, who has been on home confinement since he was convicted in April, must report to prison within 30 days. Conmy recommended Kieffer serve his sentence at the minimum-security Federal Prison Camp in Duluth.

Group breaks meeting law

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said an emergency workers' group broke state law in closing a board meeting to talk about an unfavorable audit.

The audit showed the North Dakota Emergency Medical Association misspent about $200,000 in federal disaster planning money. Some of the cash went to buy booze, pay lobbying expenses and give bonuses.

Stenehjem said the association is covered by North Dakota's open meetings law because it acts on behalf of the government.

The association's board excluded the public from a meeting it held in October to look over the audit.

Stenehjem said the reasons for the secret meeting did not follow state law. He said it appears the board knew the audit would have damaging information.

Fume site no public threat


North Dakota State University officials said a construction site where workers were overcome with fumes and hospitalized last week isn't a threat as long as the site isn't disturbed.

That's according to an environmental firm hired to investigate the Aug. 7 incident.

The site was being prepared to be resurfaced as a parking lot between two university halls when five workers were overcome by fumes. Fire officials said the fumes probably came from an old waste tank from a car dealership that's been closed for nearly 40 years.

The firm said it couldn't identify the source of the contaminants.

The architect is working to secure the site.

University officials said once a clean-up plan is created, they will follow its recommendations.

Fargo's first female firefighter

Fargo's fire chief said he's been trying to hire a woman firefighter for several years and he's pleased that it's finally happening.

Dawn Stollenwork has been working as a part-time jailer in Moorhea. She's joining the Fire Department on Aug. 24.

Stollenwork, 32, is a mother of two from Reiles Acres, north of West Fargo. She was hired as a firefighter after applying three times. She said the physical agility test is difficult.

Vehicle vandalism arrests

A 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old boy have been arrested in a case in Minot in which vehicles were stolen and crashed.

The boys have been referred to juvenile authorities. They face charges of burglary, vandalism, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and criminal conspiracy.

The damage this week included a rescue truck from Nodak Speedway that was rammed into a tree and two vehicles taken from the Minot Park District shop that also were crashed.

The boys also are accused of breaking into several buildings.

Race Club president quits

The president of Nodak Race Club in Minot has resigned after 10 years in the post and 27 years on the board of directors.

John Gaule's move comes a few weeks after board members through an attorney asked him for financial records of the nonprofit organization.

Attorney Jim Maxson said the issue is the club's financial status and whether its bookkeeping system has "an acceptable level of checks and balances."

The club's bylaws said its finances must be audited at the end of each racing season. Gaule said that has not been done in years because it slipped through the cracks.

But Gaule said "there is nothing wrong with the money."

Kelly Rambel, a driver and member of the race club, sent a complaint to the state attorney general's office seeking financial records of the club. Rambel said that after examining some records he does not suspect foul play.

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