OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma homebuilder has been sentenced Thursday in relation to a federal interstate crime ring case.
Dennis Lee, owner of Richardson Homes, pleaded guilty in November 2017. Charges against him include the possession of stolen property in interstate commerce. In this case, it was a John Deere tractor worth around $5,000.
"Under the circumstances, he should have known better than to purchase a tractor, and he acknowledged that and that was the reasoning for the sentencing today," said attorney Scott Adams.
Lee was also charged for the possession of 18 firearms with a former felony conviction.
The case stems from 2017, when a five-count indictment was filed alleging Lee had been involved in the theft of motor vehicles and other items from Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. Along with Lee, five others were also indicted including an Oklahoma City police officer.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, those involved in the theft were alleged to have transported the stolen property to the Oklahoma City area where they "fenced" it for profit. The indictment states some of the property was stored at Lee's business, Richardson Homes on South Portland Avenue in Oklahoma City.
Under the plea deal, three other counts were dropped.
In court Thursday morning, Lee was given the opportunity to make a statement. He tearfully apologized for his actions, stating he knew what he was doing was wrong and took full responsibility.
During the case, Lee sold the company, but we've learned he has since repurchased it.
“My biggest regret was that I let down the people who trusted me,” Lee said. “As a leader of a business, I need to set a better example.”
Adams urged the U.S. District Judge David Russell to consider all of the people who have been affected in the case and all of the people who continue to depend on Lee, including employees and customers.
"There's 40 homes custom being built right now. There's another 10 or 15 contracts in transit right now, so business will keep going as usual," Adams said. "I mean, obviously, there's going to be some blips that he'll have to work through, but I feel confident that everything will be 100 percent fine."
However, Adams said he felt the punishment was fair. According to sentencing guidelines, Lee faced a maximum of six years in prison.
"Dennis has the heart the size of an elephant. I mean, he’s got the biggest heart of any client I’ve ever had, and that’s evident through all of the community efforts that he’s done – all of the things he’s done for the Oklahoma City metro area," Adams said. "The thing I was most impressed with is that the judge took into consideration everything Mr. Lee had done but, importantly, he listened to the community. There was a number of letters that weren’t in the public record - that people who knew Dennis for years and years had written to the judge."
While the Bureau of Prisons will ultimately decide on Lee’s placement, Judge Russell has recommended the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana.
"We requested Texarkana, because they have programs there that Dennis can go to – it’ll help him later on it in life and could also help him get out of prison earlier," Adams said.
Lee will report to prison in mid-October. Restitution will be determined at a later date.