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MADISON - Lester Sundsmo, 65, and Lilac Sundsmo, 56, were sentenced yesterday to prison terms for their roles in filing false liens against public officials and private citizens in Columbia County.
Columbia County Circuit Court Judge Alan White ordered Lester Sundsmo to serve sentences totaling 6 and one half years in prison, and ordered Lilac Sundsmo to serve sentences totaling 4 years in prison. The Sundsmos were convicted at a jury trial on July 24-25, 2007, of multiple counts of violating Wisconsin Statutes section 943.60, criminal slander of title.
Criminal slander of title is committed when a person submits for filing or recording a lien, a claim of lien, a financing statement or other instrument relating to a security interest in or title to real or personal property, and the person knows or should have known that the contents or any part of the contents of that instrument are false, a sham, or frivolous.
The Sundsmos' scheme involved sending phony "Trade Name Notices" and "Invoices" to public officials and private citizens during the years 2003 through 2006. The Sundsmos claimed that their names could not be used without their permission, and that unauthorized use of their names would result in large monetary damages. When the victims, who included Columbia County District Attorney Jane Kohlwey, former Columbia County Judge Richard Rehm, former Sheriff Steven Rowe and others, used the Sundsmos' names in legal documents involving court proceedings, the Sundmsos filed bogus financing statements and liens with the Register of Deeds in Columbia County that claimed to show security interests in the victims' property. In reality, the Sundsmos had no legitimate security interests in the victims' property, and there was never any monetary obligation by the victims to the Sundmsos. The Sundmsos had even been warned in 2003 that their actions were wrongful and they could be subject to prosecution. The Sundmsos ignored this warning and continued to file their bogus liens.
Under Wisconsin's Truth-In-Sentencing laws, the Sundmsos will have to serve the first portion of their sentences in prison, and the remainder on extended supervision. Lester Sundsmo will serve the first 18 months of his sentence in confinement, and Lilac Sundsmo will serve the first 12 months of her sentence in confinement. Upon their release, the Sundmsos will have to follow numerous conditions of supervision, including the requirement that they cooperate with all efforts to remove or discharge the false liens. Failure of any of the terms of extended supervision may result in revocation of the supervised release and a return to prison.
Assistant Attorneys General Gary A. Freyberg and Roy R. Korte prosecuted the case for the state appearing as special prosecutors for Columbia County.