Printed on: November 19, 2013

Ex-Rigby councilman sentenced for fraud

By RUTH BROWN
rbrown@postregister.com

RIGBY -- Lawrence Blackburn said he cared for his former client, Margaret Orvick, and that she often referred to him as "her son."

District Judge Gregory Moeller on Monday sentenced the former Rigby city councilman to 150 days in jail and 10 years of probation for insurance fraud. Blackburn, who pleaded guilty through an Alford plea Sept. 16, was found to have defrauded Orvick through Lantech Financial, a private investment company he headed.

Blackburn will be credited for the 30 days he already served. Moeller also mandated that Blackburn have 180 days of discretionary jail time that may be imposed if he violates probation. He also has an underlying prison sentence of two to 12 years.

An Alford plea means Blackburn, 50, does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a jury to convict him.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed an additional grand theft charge. The Idaho Attorney General's Office brought felony charges against Blackburn in June.

Orvick died in 2011 at age 91.

In Orvick's estate paperwork, Blackburn identified himself as her son and listed three of his children as beneficiaries of her estate, according to previous Post Register reports. Each of the three children received $5,000 from Orvick's estate.

Blackburn told Moeller the document was written in 2009 and he "sincerely" had no recollection of putting his name on it.

"Who would have put you on the application if you hadn't put yourself on there?" Moeller asked.

"Well I actually put myself on there," Blackburn told the judge. "... I meant, 'No, more like an adopted son.' Not in the literal sense. But Margaret often referred to me as her son."

Moeller said Blackburn's crime was not just a lapse of judgment, it was a choice.

"I don't believe for one second that in any way this was an accident," Moeller said.

In an Oct. 11, 2012, judgment, Moeller awarded $30,000 to Orvick's daughter in a civil lawsuit. Blackburn's insurance license was revoked and he was fined $3,000 by the Idaho Department of Insurance, officials said.

Blackburn resigned from the Rigby City Council on Feb. 5 and moved to Mesa, Ariz.

He was arrested May 17 in Gilbert, Ariz., and was returned to Jefferson County by officers from the Mesa Police Department.

Defense attorney Jason Rammell said Blackburn and his family had helped take care of Margaret Orvick. She was more than just a client to Blackburn, Rammell said, she was a friend.

"They took care of her and treated her as a part of the family," Rammell said.

Rammell asked the judge to place Blackburn on probation, saying Blackburn and his wife have nine children and they are dependent on him financially.

The provisions of Blackburn's probation include that he maintain full-time employment and at no point be responsible for handling anyone else's money.

He also must serve 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine and $30,000 in restitution.

Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Robins, who served as prosecutor, argued that if Blackburn's conviction places his family in peril, "it's because he put them there."

Blackburn was educated, was a licensed insurance agent and was an expert in estate planning.

"For him to attribute this to a mistake is just not believable," Robins said.

Ruth Brown can be reached at 542-6750. Follow on Twitter @IFPost_Brown.