Kalispell Man Sentenced in Office Supply Scam

By Beacon Staff

MISSOULA – The former office manager of a Kalispell radio station was sentenced Friday to 60 days in prison and ordered to pay $815,000 in restitution in an office supply scam.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy also sentenced Kent Etchison, 33, of Vancouver, Wash., to 10 months of home confinement and 250 hours of community service.

Etchison pleaded guilty to mail fraud in May and has apologized to station owners, his attorney said.

Prosecutors say Etchison ordered office supplies far in excess of what the radio station needed in order to get kickbacks from vendors. The incentives included a television, laptop computer, traveler’s checks, gift cards and money.

Etchison, who worked at KOFI from 2001 until 2006, was indicted in February. The indictment said Etchison ordered $925,000 in office supplies from March 2003 through July 2006.

Prosecutors said the companies from which Etchison ordered the supplies “appear to be engaged, either partially or entirely, in scamming businesses like KOFI, using people like Etchison.”

It’s not clear if KOFI received all the office supplies that were ordered, most of which the station never could have used. Prosecutors said it was also unclear whether Etchison returned some of the supplies, while other supplies were returned but KOFI did not receive a refund.

Etchison’s defense attorney argued for a lenient sentence, noting Etchison did not have a criminal record, was studying to become a nurse and was working as a certified health technician. His attorney also said Etchison was married with four children, one of whom has a serious neurological disorder that has left him blind and mute.

“These circumstances spell out the precarious position of the Etchison family — Mr. Etchison’s presence and contributions are essential for this family’s ability to get by,” attorney Jeffrey Roth of Missoula wrote in arguing for a reduction in the 27 to 33-month sentencing recommendation.

Etchison has signed over rights to his $12,000 401(k) retirement account to KOFI, Roth said.

Disagreement with management over whether or not to broadcast the story about Etchison’s indictment led to the March resignation of longtime KOFI radio newscaster George Ostrom, according to Ostrom.