Corrupt former local BLM official faces sentencing Monday

Federal prosecutors will seek more than five years in prison Monday for a corrupt former Bureau of Land Management official who managed to defraud the agency's Medford office out of more than $481,000.

Luis Ramirez, 57, used the money bilked from the BLM between 2004 and 2007 to pay for travel abroad for his family, an extensive remodel to his Medford home and a condo timeshare in the Bahamas, as well as money for his codefendant son to attend Boston University, court papers state.

BLM officials also claim in court filings that Ramirez's crimes have damaged the district office's reputation.

Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Court Judge Owen Panner to sentence Ramirez to 63 months in federal prison — the upper end of the range calculated for him under federal sentencing guidelines.

Ramirez is scheduled to be sentenced at 10 a.m. Monday in Medford.

He pleaded guilty in June to five counts of wire fraud, along with single counts of personal financial conflict of interest and making a false tax return statement.

Ramirez, an operational forester for the agency's Ashland Resource Area, administered BLM contracts with private contractors here.

Ramirez crafted an intricate scheme to manipulate contracts, as well as the contractors under his control, using a series of wire transactions to funnel money to himself without any indications of illegal profiting.

Between May 2004 and July 2007, unbeknownst to the BLM, he arranged work for private contractors and funneled subcontractor work to his 30-year-old son, Evan Ramirez, according to the federal Department of Justice.

In some cases, the work he approved for contractors was never done, and on others he submitted a second bill for work already done, according to prosecutors.

Ramirez then filed bogus reports with the BLM that the work he authorized was completed, despite knowing the work was either unnecessary, unwarranted, not performed by the designated contractor or never done at all, court records show.

When BLM paid the contractors, they in turn issued checks to Evan Ramirez either directly or through a third party, with large sums ultimately transferred into Luis Ramirez's personal bank account, court documents show.

When Ramirez's scheme began to unravel, the 31-year BLM employee abruptly retired in July 2007, prosecutors said.

About that time, the FBI received an anonymous tip about Ramirez's actions, records show.

Father and son were indicted in October. After initially pleading not guilty, both men changed their plea during a June 16 hearing.

An unsigned letter from the BLM, added to the government's sentencing memorandum, detailed how Ramirez has tarnished the reputation of BLM employees, "most of whom devote their life's work to caring for the land and being the honest stewards of federal funds."

Medford District BLM spokesman Jim Whittington said the letter was written jointly by local BLM managers and the agency's Oregon state office.

Mary Smelcer, the BLM's acting district manager, was scheduled to address Panner in court Monday, Whittington said.

Along with the 63-month prison term, prosecutors will ask Panner to order Ramirez repay the BLM $481,602.47. In the government's sentencing memorandum, prosecutors state that Ramirez has assets he could liquidate to pay restitution, and they have asked Panner to consider requiring that he pay more than $500 a month to the BLM.

In the plea to the tax-fraud charge, Luis Ramirez admitted to failing to report $166,000 of income to the Internal Revenue Service.

Evan Ramirez, of Boston, pleaded guilty in June to a count of making a false tax return statement in 2007 for failing to report $18,055 of income to the IRS, records show.

He also is scheduled for sentencing Monday in Panner's court. A Presentence Report has recommended Evan Ramirez be sentenced to probation that includes six months of home detention.

Mark Freeman is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach him at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at

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