Ron Wells Helped Develop Spokane, Moscow, Lewiston. He’s Been Sentenced In Federal Fraud Scheme

The former Ridpath Hotel in downtown Spokane was vacant for several years before developer Ron Wells and other got involved to help restore and convert it into affordable apartment housing. ARCHSPOKANE CC BY-SA TINYURL.COM/Y45W6Z2M
The former Ridpath Hotel in downtown Spokane was vacant for several years before developer Ron Wells and others got involved to help restore and convert it into affordable apartment housing. CREDIT: ARCHSPOKANE CC BY-SA TINYURL.COM/Y45W6Z2M

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BY NICHOLAS DESHAIS

Prominent Spokane architect and developer Ron Wells was sentenced in federal court Wednesday for his role in staging a car crash to defraud insurance companies. He was sentenced to a year of home confinement and must pay $240,000.

Wells pleaded guilty to nine felonies last year, including charges of mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. The admissions came through an agreement with the federal government, and allowed him to avoid trial.

Following his house arrest, Wells faces three years of court supervision. Federal Judge Thomas Rice fined Wells $60,000 for his crimes and ordered him to pay restitution of nearly $180,000, equivalent to the amount insurance companies paid out for claims related to a collision Wells helped stage involving his Ram pickup truck in Liberty Lake, east of Spokane.

According to federal prosecutor George Jacobs, Wells paid all but the fine, which was issued at sentencing.

In a statement, Wells said he regretted his involvement in the collision, and accepted his penalty.

“I was prepared to accept whatever sentence I received today without reservation,” he said in a statement released by his lawyer, Kevin Curtis. “I continue to accept full responsibility for my conduct and have fully cooperated with the government since the indictment. I broke the law and violated the trust of many. I am truly and deeply sorry. I hope to one day be able to regain that trust and return to making positive contributions to the community.”

Wells’ house arrest begins Thursday. He will be allowed to leave the house for medical appointments and other general errands. However, he will be electronically monitored and need permission for travel from a probation officer.

The sentencing puts an end to Wells’ involvement in a case that originally involved 22 defendants who were accused of staging similar accidents over five years in Washington, Idaho, California and Nevada. The group was alleged to have defrauded insurance companies of more than $6 million, according to court documents.

Wells has worked as a historic preservationist in the Inland Northwest for nearly four decades. Most recently, he led the renovation of the Ridpath Hotel in downtown Spokane, which struggled for years under different owners before Wells took it over and made the rehabilitation a reality. 

He also has deep roots in Moscow, Idaho, where he attended and graduated from the University, as recounted in a 2017 profile in the Spokesman-Review:

The first building he bought and restored on his own, in 1978, was the McConnell Building in downtown Moscow, which he still owns and rents as apartments. The building was built in 1891 to house the mercantile for William McConnell, a merchant who was the third governor of Idaho and who was elected to the U.S. Senate when Idaho achieved statehood in 1890.

Wells got the building put on the historic register, and it became the first certified historic rehabilitation project using the tax credit in Idaho.

Wells, who met his future wife and business partner, Julie, around this time, gobbled up a number of buildings in Moscow and Lewiston, including the port town’s Breier Building.

Investors in Spokane’s Ridpath stripped Wells of his authority over the project after he was named in the scheme by a federal grand jury in 2018.

Wells was also behind the renovation of Spokane’s Steam Plant and numerous historic apartment buildings. Since 1983, 45 of his projects have qualified federal historic tax credits.

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