A local businessman thought that the $3 million he’d paid to a Grandview man had been spent bribing judges and paying off lawyers in pending drug cases.
But he was so wrong, according to federal prosecutors.
Instead, the 39-year-old Grandview man spent the money gambling in Las Vegas, purchasing high-end automobiles and buying luxury items from Gucci, according to federal court records released Monday.
Authorities this month arrested Shelton E. Lewis in Atlanta, where he “maintained paramour-style relationships,” according to a federal indictment.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Authorities accused Lewis of money laundering and making exortionate communications.
The scam began in July 2012, when Lewis allegedly agreed to sell the local businessman $3,000 worth of cocaine. After that deal fell through, Lewis said that his drug source had assessed a $10,000 “penalty” against the businessman.
The businessman paid it, expecting to receive the cocaine. He eventually received a bag of flour instead, according to court records.
Later, Lewis allegedly told the businessman that he could recoup his money by financing a cocaine deal.
The businessman paid for the deal and even threw in a Rolex watch, which Lewis had demanded, court records alleged.
The next month, Lewis purportedly said that the businessman probably would be swept into a drug conspiracy case but that Lewis knew a lawyer who could pay off the judge assigned to the case.
The businessman paid.
And then a federal investigation allegedly cropped up, requiring even more bribe money to resolve.
The businessman paid.
And — wouldn’t you know? — a drug cartel called the businessman, threatening to chop off his head and those of his family members if he failed to make payments, court records alleged.
The businessman kept paying.
All the while, Lewis allegedly used the money to buy Rolex watches, jewelry, sunglasses, perfume and clothing from Gucci in Las Vegas. He also bought six high-end vehicles, including a Bentley, a Mercedes-Benz, a Chevrolet Camaro and two Aston Martins.
When a 2012 Lamborghini Gallardo on sale in Georgia caught Lewis’ fancy, he allegedly paid for it in April 2013 with a $167,000 cashier’s check.
Prosecutors said they expect Lewis to be returned soon to face charges in Kansas City. And in a forfeiture action, a prosecutor said the government wants the cars and more than $1 million seized from Lewis’ bank accounts.
To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to email@example.com.