Claims against Idaho militia movement’s leader a ‘smear campaign,’ group says

Brandon Curtiss talks to reporters after arriving at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore, in January.
Brandon Curtiss talks to reporters after arriving at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore, in January. AP

Disgruntled former members of 3% of Idaho were responsible for accusations that president Brandon Curtiss improperly spent money from its bank and PayPal accounts, a statement issued Thursday by the group said.

The former members carried out a “smear campaign” against Curtiss and the organization, the statement claims.

3% of Idaho is this state’s branch of a militia movement that says it’s devoted to “freedom, liberty and the Constitution.”

An independent bookkeeper is carrying out an audit, the one-page statement said. Preliminary results could be released to the public as early as Thursday evening.

The audit “will show that there has not been and never was any misappropriation of funds,” the unsigned statement said.

On Tuesday, 36 members resigned from 3% of Idaho and accused Curtiss of stealing money meant for four Idaho men indicted in the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada. The members, many in leadership positions, said the prisoners received only $429 after $2,475 was raised during a benefit concert held in Twin Falls in early July.

The members who quit said the entire amount, along with an additional $426 raised by group members in other parts of the state, was supposed to go to Scott Drexler of Challis, Todd Engel of Boundary County and Eric Parker and Steve Stewart of Hailey.

When the money from the concert was deposited into the group’s account at Mountain West Bank, the account had been overdrawn continuously from June 8 to July 25. A portion of the money deposited, $567, went to bring the account back into the black.

Thursday’s statement by 3% of Idaho blamed former vice president Johnathan Casey for $1,400 in “unexplained expenditures.” The group said Casey charged cell phone bills, groceries and took “several unexplained cash withdrawals” using his 3% of Idaho debit card.

Casey denies misappropriating any money.

“I have receipts for anything I spent. All of it was for 3% of Idaho,” Casey told the Idaho Statesman.

After he received authorization to look at the bank statements in June, Casey said he started asking questions about questionable expenditures, including trips Curtiss made to California and Nevada.

He said he confronted Curtiss, but “that didn’t go well. So I resigned and others took on the fight,” Casey said.

An examination of 3% of Idaho’s bank records shows Casey used his debit card to make $812.70 in purchases and to withdraw $260 in two ATM transactions between March and August.

Casey said he used $60 to buy a drill at a yard sale that he used for work at a retreat for the group. The rest of the money was used for petty cash expenses: $100 was given to Parker’s wife, Andrea, to be put into jail accounts for her husband and the three other prisoners.

He said he has the remaining $100 with the bank receipt and plans to turn that back in to the group.

Two charges totaling $159 were paid to the city of Hailey. The benefit concert was originally scheduled to be held in Hailey. The money was paid to reserve a city park, but the permit was denied and the money was refunded, Casey said.

In a Sept. 19 Facebook post, Casey said he sought a loan several months earlier to pay a phone bill but was told 3% of Idaho would pay it. He said he was told he needed to keep in touch with the group and it would be considered a business expense.

The bank statements show a $170 charge from AT&T on May 23.

“Brandon approved the phone bill unilaterally. He convinced me over the phone it was a business expense,” Casey said.

In Tuesday’s letter, the members who resigned wrote they support Casey’s expenditures and believe they were for legitimate purposes.

In its Thursday statement, 3% of Idaho said it has used group money to help families in need, pay for expenses at membership meetings and travel, among other things.

The group says the bank statements and PayPal statements distributed to former members and the media, including the Idaho Statesman, were “obtained by individuals not authorized to access those accounts and were obtained under false pretenses.”

The group has threatened to have anyone who distributed or received the statements prosecuted.

Business lawsuits

Separately, Curtiss previously operated two property management companies based in Meridian, Curtiss Property Management and Liberty Property Management. Curtiss left a trail of unpaid bills and was sued by the owners of properties he managed for failing to turn over rent money he collected from apartment residents. He owes a Portland couple $68,549 from one court judgment.

Last week, a bankruptcy court judge ruled on another suit, ordering Curtiss to pay $22,350 plus $2,000 in attorney fees to Martinique Properties. The company, owned by state Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, had contracted with Curtiss Property Management and claimed Curtiss failed to turn over money owed from rentals.

The order by Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Terry Myers cannot be discharged through bankruptcy.

John Sowell: 208-377-6423, @IDS_Sowell