Former head of Idaho patriot group pleads not guilty to stealing from property owners

Brandon Curtiss speaks to reporters at the Malheur National Refuge outside Burns, Oregon, in January 2016. Curtiss, then president of 3% of Idaho, joined a group of armed men who set up a security perimeter during a standoff at the refuge.
Brandon Curtiss speaks to reporters at the Malheur National Refuge outside Burns, Oregon, in January 2016. Curtiss, then president of 3% of Idaho, joined a group of armed men who set up a security perimeter during a standoff at the refuge. The Associated Press

A former Meridian property manager accused of stealing from his clients has pleaded not guilty to 19 felony counts of grand theft.

Brandon Curtiss, 44, is scheduled to go to trial before an Ada County jury on Oct. 4.

He is accused of collecting rent from tenants of his clients and failing to turn the money over. Altogether, he is accused of stealing $98,564.

The amount is $11,564 higher than when he was arrested in February. Ada County prosecutors updated the reported losses for each of the 19 victims in a document filed in District Court.

The story below was published Feb. 6, 2018, under the headline, "Former head of Idaho patriot group arrested, accused of stealing from property owners."

A former leader of an Idaho militia group who authorities say kept rent payments meant for clients of his now-defunct property-management companies was arrested Tuesday and jailed in Boise.

Brandon R. Curtiss, 43, of Fruitland, is charged with 19 felony counts of grand theft, one for each of 19 victims, said Deputy Ada County Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu.

Curtiss is accused of stealing $87,000 in all. He was being held on $150,000 bail. If convicted, he faces up to 14 years in prison on each count.

The Idaho State Police spent nearly two years investigating Curtiss, a former police officer in North Idaho who later led a group called 3% of Idaho, a branch of a militia movement that said it was devoted to “freedom, liberty and the Constitution.” The investigation concerned his businesses, Curtiss Property Management and Liberty Property Management, which he operated from a Meridian office.

Clients said Curtiss collected rent from tenants of homes and apartments he managed for them but failed to deliver the money to them. The alleged thefts took place between January 2013 and August 2016, according to the criminal complaint.

Among the alleged victims are Aaron and Leslie Boyce of the Portland area. They hired Curtiss in March 2013 to manage two four-plex apartments they bought near West Fairview Avenue and North Cloverdale Road.

Before the end of 2013, Curtiss stopped submitting rent payments, so the couple sued in Ada County District Court. They won a judgment of $19,726, plus $48,823 in attorney fees and costs. They still have not received any money from Curtiss, Leslie Boyce said Tuesday.

“It has taken way too long for the wheels of justice to begin turning,” Boyce told the Idaho Statesman. “We look forward to seeing Brandon Curtiss answer before a judge and jury for what he has done.”

It is unclear whether the state police also looked into allegations from members of 3% of Idaho that Curtiss spent money from the group’s bank account on personal expenses.

Thirty-six members of the group resigned in September 2016 after accusing Curtiss of improperly spending $2,901 in donations earmarked for four Idaho men accused in the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada. ISP spokesman Tim Marsano declined to say Tuesday whether the investigation included those allegations.

The group has reorganized under different leadership. The website used by Curtiss when he headed the group is no longer active.

Curtiss had joined a group of armed men who occupied the headquarters of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge outside Burns, Oregon, in January 2016 in a protest over grazing rights on federal land. Three weeks later, he filed for bankruptcy, his third filing since 2001.

The bankruptcy is still pending. A report filed last month by the bankruptcy trustee said the trustee planned to pay $2,020 to unsecured creditors from $2,843 taken from Curtiss. One of his former clients, Martinique Properties of Meridian, is scheduled to receive $790.34 out of a claim of $22,350.

State police opened their investigation in May 2016 after 17 of Curtiss’ clients filed complaints and met with lawyers at the Idaho Attorney General’s Office.

Curtiss has had other legal troubles, too. Last summer, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disturbing the peace after he pulled a gun on a woman who served him with a court summons at his home in Fruitland. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail with all but 40 days suspended. A Payette County judge said he would credit him two days for every day he spent on a county work crew. He was arrested in December after failing to report to the work crew. Court records said he was sentenced to the full 40 days.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Ada County Magistrate Court on the theft charges.