Military Vehicles, June 1997,: [MV] Fort McCoy trial results

[MV] Fort McCoy trial results
Sat, 21 Jun 1997 21:06:41 -0400 (EDT)

3 guilty in Fort McCoy thefts
Two others acquitted of scheme that took 153 vehicles from base
By Kevin Murphy
Special to the Journal Sentinel
June 14, 1997
Madison - A federal jury Friday found three men guilty and acquitted two
others on charges
stemming from the theft of 153 vehicles valued at $13 million from Fort McCoy
from 1994 to
The jury deliberated for 21 hours over three days before handing down the
verdicts on the
charges of conspiracy and conversion of government equipment in the largest
known theft of
equipment from a U.S. military base.
Convicted Friday were:
Dennis Lambert, 53, of Black River Falls, the base's former range maintenance
officer, who was
found guilty of conspiracy in the thefts. He was also found guilty on three
of five conversion
charges and not guilty on two others.
Loyd Pilgrim, 37, of Amery, a military surplus dealer and owner of Ladd Auto
Crushing, who
was found guilty of conspiracy and two of three conversion charges against
Grant Kruger, 43, of Maplewood, Minn., president of the Military Vehicles and
Arms Museum of
Minnesota, who was found guilty on one count each of conspiracy and
David Butler, 44, of Fairfield, Iowa, owner of Vintage Power Wagons, and
George Pretty, 58, of
Sturgis, Mich., owner of Surplus Enterprises, were acquitted on charges of
conspiracy and
Kruger, Lambert and Pilgrim each face lengthy prison sentences at a Sept. 10
hearing before U.S.
District Judge Barbara B. Crabb.
Each count of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison
and a $250,000 fine.
The maximum sentence for conversion is 10 years in prison and a $250,000
Their punishment will be based on the fair market value of the vehicles at
the time they were
illegally converted, said U.S. Attorney Peggy Lautenschlager.
Kruger, in tears after the verdicts, said only that he felt "pretty bad" and
will appeal.
Lambert's attorney, Ed Genson, said his client will also appeal.
"It's a court of law, not a court of justice," said one of Lambert's sons,
declining to give his name.
The two acquitted men, Butler and Pretty, said the justice system treated all
five men on trial
"I feel like the truth, at least on my part, came out. I knew I didn't do
anything. They put me
through hell. God answers prayer," Pretty said. "I don't care what they say
-- I've gotten to know
these people. I think they've misjudged them."
Despite the two acquittals Friday, government prosecutors were happy with the
verdicts because
"we believe we presented strong cases against all of the individuals,"
Lautenschlager said.
She declined to speculate Friday on why jurors would find three defendants
guilty and acquit
two others when presented with the same theory for all five defendants.
The government contended that all the defendants knew the equipment was
stolen by Anthony
Piatz Jr. of Hudson, who bribed one base employee, Lambert, to help acquire
and load the
vehicles, and another, Donald Crandall, of Sparta, to create phony documents
transferring the
vehicles to Piatz.
Both Crandall and Piatz were convicted on theft and bribery charges earlier
this year and face
sentencing next month.
Defense attorneys said Friday they believed that the fewer ties a defendant
had to Piatz the less
likely jurors were to find him guilty.
"I think Butler and Pretty were one more level removed from Piatz than the
other (defendants).
It seems like people who worked with Piatz on a daily basis, like Lambert and
Pilgrim, in the
jurors' minds, had more opportunity to learn the stuff was stolen than the
others," said Pretty's
attorney, Michael Dunn.
Butler's attorney, Tracey Wood, agreed.
"Lambert was on the base, Pilgrim hauled things off for Piatz, and Kruger did
the titling for Piatz
while Pretty and Butler essentially dealt with Piatz by phone," Wood said.
Butler did own an abandoned missile base with Piatz near Roberts, in St.
Croix County, and
although Piatz used the base to store some of the stolen vehicles, Wood said
it was obvious that
the missile base was in no other way connected to the vehicle thefts.
Defense attorneys argued that Crandall's ability to create convincing forged
documents fooled
everyone into thinking Piatz had the authority to remove the vehicles.
"Pretty testified that he did not know that the missile launcher sold to Dr.
(Ronald) Barnes in
Tulsa (Okla.) was stolen. We argued that Crandall had phonied up the
documents so well that
everyone believed they were real. My client didn't know the equipment was
stolen, and he was
only telling Piatz about someone interested in some stuff for sale," Dunn
Although found not guilty, Pretty has been punished by losing a government
contract to restore
vehicles and was kicked out of a military preservation society because of the
charges filed against
him, Dunn said.
Butler, who sells vintage army trucks in Iowa, will decide whether to sell
the missile base or turn
it into a military museum as planned, Wood said.
Fort McCoy is a 60,000-acre training base near Sparta, 95 miles northwest of
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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