BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A highway construction company owner who once led one of Idaho's most-powerful building groups has been sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay $3.1 million in restitution.
The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/1mME31L) that 67-year-old Elaine Martin received the sentence Thursday in U.S. District Court in Boise.
Martin of Meridian, a former Associated General Contractors president in Idaho, was convicted in September of 22 criminal counts, including filing false tax returns and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. of millions of dollars.
Martin owned highway guard rail installer MarCon Inc., doing work in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. She faced up to 20 years on some counts.
"In this case, the thought of a 20-year sentence is incomprehensible," Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said. "It would likely be a death sentence."
Winmill agreed to release Martin from the Ada County Jail for six weeks to take care of medical issues before going to prison. He noted Martin had no previous criminal record, grew up in Jerome, and her entire family lives in the state.
She was also free after her arrest and during her trial until being jailed in November after refusing to cooperate with investigators looking into her finances concerning a forfeiture proceeding.
"I've never had a concern that Ms. Martin is a flight risk," Winmill said.
Martin has blamed four company accountants for MarCon's problems.
"I have no idea where it got out of whack," Martin said. "It was never my intention to defraud."
From 1997 to 2008 , Martin submitted fraudulent tax returns and financial information to qualify for programs offered by the federal Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation intended to benefit economically disadvantaged companies.
Martin obtained 33 contracts worth more than $14.2 million and with profits of $3.1 million.
"The dominance of her business made it almost impossible for another business to benefit from these programs," Winmill said.
Also on Thursday, it was announced that MarCon had recently sold for $3.1 million, the amount Martin is to pay in forfeiture.
"Elaine Martin's conviction, sentence and forfeiture of more than $3 million clearly demonstrates that fraud and misrepresentations to government programs is the wrong way to run a business," U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said in a written statement. "This office, indeed the entire Department of Justice, along with its law enforcement partners are committed to rooting out greed and dishonesty in government contracting."
Martin's attorney, Andrew McBride, said he planned to file an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals due to what he said were errors in determining the appropriate sentence.
"We respectfully disagree with the sentence," McBride said. "We think it's far too harsh."