DEER LODGE (AP) - Two Jehovah's Witness church elders who fleeced a 100-year-old Deer Lodge woman out of her life savings and family ranch were sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison with 10 suspended.
District Judge Ted Mizner sentenced Darryl Willis, 64, of Helena, and Dale Erickson, 54, of Missoula, in what prosecutors called the biggest theft case in Montana history.
The men _ who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, theft and securities fraud _ were ordered to pay $6.5 million in restitution.
The thefts included taking a nearly $400,000 brokerage fee for illegally and secretly selling Una Anderson's $5.3 million Powell County ranch for $4 million.
More than $2 million went to finance a failed effort to establish Montana's first foreign capital depository, which would offer a place for the super-rich to stash their money similar to Swiss-style or offshore banks.
Mizner said the sentence represents a "small measure of justice" for Anderson, whose life savings and 6,400-acre family ranch were lost in a befriend-and-betray scheme that played out from 1995 to 2002.
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The men used a complex system of trusts and interlocking companies to steal Anderson's money while living in expensive homes, driving luxury cars and traveling extensively, court records said.
Anderson, who is now 101, said she is glad that justice was served, but is sad for the men who made poor decisions and ruined their lives.
"It's sad to think of those two young people," she said of Erickson and Willis. "My life has been good, but it's almost over. They had everything ahead of them."
During the sentencing hearing, family members and a social worker for Adult Protective Services, Janel Pliley, asked the court to impose the maximum sentence allowed by law _ which would have totaled 40 years.
Kelson Colbo, whose grandfather was Una Anderson's first cousin, said Erickson and Willis used Anderson's trust with the church as leverage to convince her to trust them with her finances.
The case was brought to the attention of authorities in September 2001 by members of Anderson's family and Pliley.