Kirkland man dies in crash in Yakima County
A Kirkland is dead after his vehicle plunged more than 300 feet over a cliff in Yakima County. The wreckage was discovered Thursday afternoon. James W. Lull was scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in Hawaii in a large fraud scheme there.
SELAH, Yakima County — A 60-year-old man from Kirkland is dead after his vehicle plunged more than 300 feet over a cliff in Yakima County.
The wreckage was discovered Thursday afternoon north of Selah, officials said. The man was identified as James W. Lull.
Lull was set to be sentenced Thursday in Hawaii for a large fraud scheme, authorities there said.
A federal judge in Hawaii Thursday issued a bench warrant for Lull, but investigators suspect that the deadly crash occurred in the 24 to 48 hours before his body was discovered.
Restitution in the criminal case was estimated to be more than $20 million to more than 50 victims, according to federal court records.
Officials are still investigating why Lull's 2007 Ford Explorer left westbound Interstate 82, traveled 200-300 feet through sagebrush, hit a fence and continued over the cliff.
Tire marks indicate the vehicle was accelerating while off the road, though the reasons for that were not clear. Lull was wearing his seat belt, investigators said.
The crash likely happened in the 24 to 48 hours before a passing trucker reported this afternoon that he'd spotted the wreckage from the Fred Redmon bridge, Washington State Patrol officials said. The bridge, which crosses Selah Creek on Highway 82, is about five miles north of Selah.
Lull, who authorities said had moved to the Seattle area since the fraud investigation, had pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud after being charged last year. He faced up to 20 years in prison.
In a plea agreement, prosecutors wrote that Lull had used his position as a bank mortgage broker in Hawaii to lure investors for his own "bridge loans" and "private mortgages" starting in 2005. As a bank employee, he had access to confidential information about customers, including real-estate deals.
Lull promised guaranteed returns in a short time, but he had no intention of repaying the money and instead used it for his own purposes, prosecutors alleged. Investors gave him more than $30 million, prosecutors said, noting that Lull described most of those investors as creditors when he filed for personal bankruptcy in 2007.
Meanwhile, the frustrated trustee in Lull's bankruptcy case alleged in other court filings that Lull had apparently hidden assets and wasn't cooperating with efforts to identify them. In an April 29 article, The Honolulu Advertiser quoted sources as saying they believed Lull had been involved in thousands of dollars worth of fraudulent deals since arriving in Washington.
However, he told the bankruptcy trustee that he had no money and would need to be paid for airfare and other expenses in order to return to Hawaii to help with the civil case, according to the trustee's statement to the court.
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