MISSOULA – A Seattle man who impersonated the son of country music legend Merle Haggard has pleaded guilty to fraud and identity theft.
Federal prosecutors say Mark G. Sams, while impersonating Noel Haggard, chartered a private jet to Mexico and then charged the $61,000 bill to a Whitefish acquaintance’s credit card.
Sams told the victim he needed to go to Mexico to check out an opportunity to manage a small resort near Puerto Vallarta.
Sams along with his roommate, the victim and the victim’s mother went on the June 2007 trip, which included stops in Arizona, Las Vegas and Los Cabos, Mexico, before arriving in Puerto Vallarta.
When the Whitefish man’s credit card bill arrived at the end of the month it included a $61,000 charge for the chartered jet.
Sams was arrested in July 2007 in Ronan for impersonating Noel Haggard and signing autographs and charging people to take pictures with him. Sams denied charging people for pictures.
On Sept. 25, the Sams, 50, pleaded guilty in Missoula to federal charges of access device fraud and aggravated identity theft.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy scheduled Sams’ sentencing for Jan. 9. He faces up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. A conviction for aggravated identity theft comes with a minimum two years imprisonment, consecutive to any other sentence.
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