Man gets prison in meth case


— A 39-year-old Steamboat Springs man was sentenced to eight years in prison Friday for selling methamphetamine.

Routt County District Court Judge Michael O'Hara told Thomas Edward Payne he thought Payne should spend more time in prison, but he accepted the plea agreement Payne reached with the District Attorney's Office.

Payne pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing methamphetamine and a lesser charge of possessing less than 1 gram of the drug in October. In exchange for the plea, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James agreed to dismiss the other charges Payne was facing, which included violating his bail bond conditions, possessing a weapon, false reporting and charges in two 2006 driving under the influence cases.

In addition to the prison sentence, O'Hara ordered Payne to forfeit any money he had on him when he was arrested in February and serve a mandatory five-year parole. Payne was given 169 days of credit for time he has spent in the Routt County Jail.

During his sentencing Friday, Payne apologized to the community for his behavior.

"I just wanted to apologize to the community and to mother for my actions. That's all," he said.

Payne was arrested in February 2006 after he called Steamboat Springs police officers to report being robbed at gunpoint of $700 by five people from Craig who had come to his Steamboat Springs mobile home to purchase methamphetamine.

After stopping the five Craig residents in Hayden, police found that the alleged robbers had not stolen $700 from Payne, but had stolen 10 grams of meth from his home after Payne reportedly refused to accept a gun in exchange for the drugs.

"This agreement sends the strongest message to the community that drug dealing, especially methamphetamine, will not be tolerated by the District Attorney's Office," St. James said, "and that we will pursue these cases with great vigor."


id04sp 10 years, 3 months ago

Well, here he goes again:

"Routt County District Court Judge Michael O'Hara told Thomas Edward Payne he thought Payne should spend more time in prison, but he accepted the plea agreement Payne reached with the District Attorney's Office."

Who is Payne's attorney? Seriously, who is it? I can't find it listed anywhere. I want to hire him to represent me in a water court action so I can divert a seasonal stream to build a pond on my property.

"In exchange for the plea, Assistant District Attorney Kerry St. James agreed to dismiss the other charges Payne was facing, which included violating his bail bond conditions, possessing a weapon, false reporting and charges in two 2006 driving under the influence cases."

And how should we all take this? According to the DA's office: "This agreement sends the strongest message to the community that drug dealing, especially methamphetamine, will not be tolerated by the District Attorney's Office," St. James said, "and that we will pursue these cases with great vigor."

Okay, sports fans, the way this guy got caught was by having several other dudes from Craig come over and rob him at gunpoint. They took the meth from him and offered him a .357 in payment. After they left his trailer, Payne called the cops and filed a crime report for the theft of $700. (Is $70/gram the wholesale or the retail price for meth?).

Oh, by the way, the DA dropped charges against one of the robbers when Payne refused to testify in the robbery case. That means Payne is also responsible for having another drug trafficker back out on the street.

So much for all that, "great vigor," I guess.

Well, at least it saved the County the cost of having a trial (and why did we need that new Justice Center, again?).

Would anybody else agree that maybe some of the local cops need to spend a little more time, oh, I don't know, maybe mingling with the population and keeping their ears open for who's dealing instead of running around with their chests puffed out, mountain biking on taxpayer time, trimming up their moustaches and polishing their high-and-tights?

Hmmm . . . so the County Sheriff only really has about 15 officers, including two investigators. The County Commissioners sunk $15,000,000 into a new courthouse where, apparently, there will be very few trials. A million bucks a year would fund at least 6 or 7 more experienced investigators for the RCSO, but there's no money in the budget for that.

Here's the message to all the rest of us.

The County Commission is soft on drug enforcement. Wonder why that is?

The RCSO is too small to be effective against much more than routine emergency and acute crime cases, most of which are traffic, domestic and petty in nature if you believe the stuff we see covered in the Pilot.

Would a trial possibly raise the risk that some "respectable" local traffickers (affluent, recreational users) might be implicated during the testimony?


JazzSlave 10 years, 3 months ago

It would be interesting to see some reliable stats documenting recreational drug use among middle-aged & older people in the higher income brackets. My impression (rightly or wrongly) is that most people grow out of it. My business puts me in contact with some pretty deep pockets. If there are regular users in those environs, they conceal it well.


Tom Whiddon 10 years, 3 months ago

The commisioners were forced to build a new Justice Center by the State. It cost much more because Towny and his group held up building of the new facility for a year. Meanwhile the prices went up. You can thank you councilman for the extra cost.


id04sp 10 years, 3 months ago


Yes, you are right on all counts.

Remember our former judge and his girlfriend? He'd still be on the bench if she hadn't run across a GRAMNET "sting" after the judge riled one of the cops over something involved with another case.

Why doesn't the County fund a larger drug task force? Skeletons in a lot of closets, maybe? There's a lot of money spread out from Winter Park to Steamboat that started out as real estate investment funded by drug trafficking back in the 70s. This is how kids who started out in resort jobs managed to parlay those jobs into successful commercial and real estate ventures you see today. Really. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. (This will be on the quiz.)

There are seemingly "legit" folks out there today who would have a very hard time surviving an audit by the Colorado Department of Revenue a few years ago. I've never heard of a CDR audit of a retail business. Have you? Buy a few t-shirts for $2 or $3 and hang them in the store, deposit $40 or $60 in the bank and call it "receipts from sales," and voila -- nice squeaky-clean money appears in the bank account. Nobody EVER has to show how much inventory they purchased and tie that directly to sales to justify the sales tax returns filed with the CDR.

Why launder the money? Incomes justify loans from banks and standards of living the IRS might be curious about if there was an audit. Is an IRS agent going to pore through a couple hundred rolls of cash register tape to look for transactions that match the daily deposits of a small retail business? Hell no! As long as the IRS is getting its cut of the pie, what do they care if somebody pads the receipts from sales to hide proceeds from trafficking. It just takes a long time to get rich this way (like, not immediately), but you stay out of jail during the 5 to 10 years it takes to get the real estate investments going.

Need a favorable zoning ruling so you don't have to provide parking spaces for your commercial business (this didn't happen in Steamboat, BTW)? Maybe a friend of a friend gets a good deal on a spec lot in return for a favor from the judge (does the land deal stick if the ruling is reversed on appeal? I don't know.) There are SO many ways to do this, and almost no way to ever get caught until somebody runs across a drug sting, guts are spilled, and dots get connected. And if the dots stop at somebody with power and influence, BINGO! Barney Pfyffe earns a chip in the Big Game.

These are not "conspiracy theories." It's done so well, on such a large scale, but in such small amounts, that people get away with it.

I've been able to buy low and sell high several times due to being in the right places at the right times. If I'd only had an extra $10,000 a year to invest in vacant property over the past 10 years, it would be worth well over $1,000,000 today. $800 a month would have been enough.


id04sp 10 years, 3 months ago

The county was NOT forced to build the new Justice Center by the State. The County appealed Judge Doucette's unlawful court order and won. The County just went ahead and built it anyway.

The State is required by law to fund construction of court facilities when the Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court orders it. The County cannot be compelled to bear the cost of constructing a State facility, but can do so voluntarily.

The Commissioners voluntarily spent $15,000,000 out of their reserves so that a few judges, clerks and lawyers can have offices as nice as the lawyers out in town.

Back to the top of the page, so why build courtrooms when you don't expect to hold trials there? Judge O'Hara likes plea bargains, and he told the local lawyers and the DA to make them happen after he took office as Chief Justice of the 14th District.

Court security was the big reason cited for the original order to build the new facility. What are they expecting, the Manson Family? Wanna bet we'll still see only one deputy and a walk-through metal detector in use when the place opens? That will be different from the old courthouse because . . . well because it will be in a NEW courthouse!

The new Justice Center is a nice big comfortable building provided by us taxpayers so that the attorneys WE, the taxpayers, allow to be licensed by the State can go down there and charge $200 to $300 an hour for their services without ever contributing one red cent to the cost of running the place.

Take it from one who know by experience: YOU can be systematically robbed by everyone from your employees to your homeowner's association, and you'll never be able to do anything about it unless you are willing to spend $20,000 up front to hire a lawyer. Instead of doing this, I have been deducting my losses as due to theft and criminal extortion, and when the IRS audits me, I'll give them the documentation and let them go after the thieves.

Income obtained illegally is subject to taxation, and there's no statute of limitations on tax evasion or failure to report. (IF you're reading this and think I'm talking about YOU . . . you may be right!)


id04sp 10 years, 3 months ago

Hey, Bobbie,

Is the Western States Homeowner's Association a not-for-profit corporation? Do you guys know about excess benefits, tax on retained earnings, use of "dues" to fund projects that do not benefit the community as a whole, thereby making the income taxable? Like, for example, if you build roads that anybody at all can use, it's for the good of the community as a whole. If you put up a gate across the road, it's no longer tax exempt because only the people inside can use those roads. It's the same with a pool or a community center -- unless everybody can come inside and use it, it's not tax exempt.

Did you know that money held from one year to the next that's not earmarked for a specific tax-exempt purpose and placed in a special holding account or returned to the members is subject to a 30% income tax?

Do you know about the 10% excise tax on excess benefits to disqualified persons which each responsible "manager" is liable to pay? This occurs when someone like a member of the board, their family, business associates, etc., gets more back from the Association in benefits than they actually paid in. Each other member of the board who allowed this to happen is individually responsible for the 10% excise tax, meaning they EACH pay 10%, not just their part of 10%.

Did you know that excess benefits paid to disqualified persons are subject to a 25% excise tax if paid in the year due, and is subject to a 200% (yes, that's right 200%) excise tax after that. This means that if you paid in $800 in dues and got a $1500 benefit from having the road paved in front of your house, you owe taxes on the $700 difference ($175 in this case). Let it go to next year, and the tax goes up to $1,400 (200% of $700). Sweet, huh?

It pays for members of HOA boards to know about these things and prevent them from happening. I'm sure you're all over it. Some people are not . . . which is a real pity when a disgruntled homeowner drops a dime on the IRS after the January 15th deadline for filing estimated tax payments for last year.

Oh, look! It's January 20th!

He he he.


Bobbie_Dooley 10 years, 3 months ago

You are sharp as a tack!

Here at Western Estates, a gated community in So. Cal, we have an accountant take care of those issues. I am too busy planning our Spring-Tacular fashion to think about those bourgoise issues.

By the way, did you know that I have eliminated the elderly from my subdivision? I turn off their AC in the middle of the night and send them to a better place.

He he he.


id04sp 10 years, 3 months ago


Yes, I heard that show and loved it. I no longer live in So. Cal, but I heard that Phil has moved on to other projects.

My HOA has an accountant also, but they apparently have not checked the laws on tax-exempt organizations since the laws changed in 1995. A requirement for tax-exempt status is that no member of the association can receive an excess benefit (get a benefit more valuable than the member's actual contribution to the association). Excess benefits to disqualified persons are a particular no-no, and that's been going on for at least five years I can count. My knee-jerk estimate is that the HOA owes at least $45,000 in back taxes just on the excess cash they held over without refunding it to the members. When you hold money back every year, claiming that it's to reduce "future assessments for common expenses" but then you never reduce the yearly dues, either, it becomes taxable.

Well, the County may not care. The State may not care. The DA may not care. The Sheriff may not care. The Colorado Department of Revenue may not care.

But the I-R-frickin'-S? I bet THEY care!

I've seen some tax-evaders living in Las Vegas. They were painting lines on the parking lots as part of their sentences to the low-security prison camp located on Nellis Air Force Base. Some of those people were OLD, too -- like 70s old.

Seriously, the IRS is really cracking down on abusive tax shelters and abuse of tax-exempt status for personal profit. When you try to tell the people at your homeowner's association about this stuff and they refuse to communicate, well, then, I guess there's only one thing left to do.

Oh, and sometimes, the IRS pays rewards to informants.

But, back on point, you see, this is the kind of stuff that the local authorities have been letting people get away with. The only thing I'm surprised about with respect to the sentencing of the meth user is that the cops didn't tell him it was a "civil matter" when Payne reported the alleged robbery and tell him to hire a lawyer and sue them.

I guess the difference is that there's a lab test for meth. That makes it easy to prove as long as the chain of custody is preserved. So, when the criminal called the cops over to the house and basically presented the evidence to them, I guess that's an investigation that the locals knew how to handle.

FINE JOB, fellows.

(Bobbie -- know anybody who wants to swap a house on a lake in Tennesse or North Carolina for a place in the Rockies? I think it's time for a change of venue.)


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