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Indicted Tamarack suitor's trial enters 4th day

John Miller, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Prosecutors spent the fourth day of a former Tamarack Resort suitor's federal fraud trial trying to show jurors he used retirees' money to enrich himself amid his unsuccessful bid to take control of the financially crippled Idaho vacation getaway.

Matthew Hutcheson, who faces 17 counts of wire fraud, listened intently Monday in a dark jacket and striped tie as prosecutors called about a half-dozen witnesses in U.S. District Court in Boise.

One of them, a Virginia hard-money lender named James Fletcher, recalled giving Hutcheson a $425,000, 5 percent-per-month loan in 2011 that was never repaid. As collateral, Hutcheson pledged a $3.5 million mortgage on Tamarack's golf course.

Fletcher told jurors he likely wouldn't have loaned Hutcheson money — had he known the collateral had been purchased with people's retirement savings.

"He said he'd used his own money to buy it," Fletcher remembered, adding he typically makes loans only to people "who have skin in the game."

Hutcheson's trial may conclude next week, possibly by Tuesday.

For each wire fraud count, he faces 20 years in prison if he's convicted.

Prior to the trial, Hutcheson rejected a plea agreement.

Samuel Richard Rubin, his government-appointed lawyer, said Monday he's still uncertain whether he'll call the defendant to testify on his own behalf.

Prosecutors contend Hutcheson, a retirement account trustee, took $2 million from one fund to buy luxury cars and remodel his home, and more than $3 million from another account to purchase the mortgage on Tamarack's Robert Trent Jones II-designed golf course, part of his strategy to win control of the whole resort.

The resort 90 miles north of Boise has been beset by financial problems since its owners defaulted on a construction loan in 2008 now totaling $300 million in principal, interest and penalties.

In November 2010, Hutcheson announced his $40 million offer for the resort at a press conference in Boise.

Part of the prosecution's case includes allegations that Hutcheson forged a so-called "proof of funds" letter meant to show he had access to that sum.

Albert "Skip" Schweiss, an executive from Denver-based TD Ameritrade Trust called to the stand by prosecutors Monday, said he met Hutcheson for breakfast in 2010 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Denver. Shortly thereafter, Hutcheson approached him about writing the letter to assist his Tamarack bid, Schweiss recalled.

Schweiss declined, he said, on advice from his company's lawyers.

In November 2011, however, Schweiss said U.S. Department of Labor agents now investigating the case presented him with a letter similar to the one Hutcheson had proposed — only this one with Schweiss' signature.

"I think my jaw probably hit the floor. There are a lot of things wrong about this letter," he told jurors, adding his company's logo is incorrect, the address is false — and the phone number is from the Hyatt hotel where he and Hutcheson had breakfasted months earlier.

Questioning of the prosecution's witnesses by Hutcheson's defense team was relatively limited Monday, though it sought to underscore his good reputation as a responsible steward of people's money.

Defense attorney Melissa Windberg, for instance, suggested Schweiss must have had a strongly favorable impression of Hutcheson in 2010, in part because he'd agreed to speak at one of the defendant's investment conferences in Boise.

"You felt like you could meet people there," Windberg said. "Overall, you had a good relationship with him at that time."