In April 2011, an admitted methamphetamine addict from Olympia cheated a single mother out of her last $800 when he "rented" her a Lacey apartment that didn't belong to him - leaving her homeless for about three weeks.
In September 2012, Marshall Gosney moved onto a bigger scam: stealing $12,000 from an 86-year-old Tumwater man with "diminished memory and judgment " by convincing him to invest in a fictitious scheme to sell chainsaws that were to be "shipped" to the Port of Seattle.
On Thursday, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon sentenced Gosney, 38, to six years in prison for two counts of first-degree theft for perpetrating both scams.
Gosney's pleas for a "drug offender sentencing alternative" that would have allowed him to shave years off his time behind bars fell on deaf ears. Dixon said he was particularly moved by the tearful request by single mother Heather Busk during the sentencing hearing that Gosney serve the maximum amount of time allowable for stealing $800 that she thought was going to rent for her new apartment.
Busk told Dixon that Gosney "needs to sit in jail and realize he's destroyed people's lives. He needs to sit somewhere for a long time and think about what he's done." She explained that she had just moved to the area from California in April, 2011, with her three children, and was working at the Walmart bakery when she learned that Gosney could rent her an apartment on Mesplay Street in Lacey.
Gosney, who did handyman work for the realtor, had a pair of keys to the home, and took Busk on two walkthroughs. After giving Gosney $800, she never heard from Gosney again. When she contacted a real estate agency, they told her the house had recently been sold.
Busk told Dixon she is a single mom who lives "paycheck to paycheck." She described the embarrassment of going to the Red Cross for emergency assistance after her plan to move into the Mesplay Street apartment fell through. She said she was homeless for three weeks.
During Thursday's sentencing hearing, Busk addressed Gosney directly as he sat in the courtroom in handcuffs. "Get a job," she said. "Don't steal from people who work hard."
Gosney's 86-year-old victim was not present in court Thursday because his wife, who is in her 90s, had a sudden doctor's appointment, Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Mark Thompson said. The 86-year-old man's nephew went to the Thurston County Sheriff's Office in January, because his uncle had invested $12,000 in Gosney's scheme to import chainsaws to the Port of Seattle, then sell them.
Gosney told the 86-year-old that he would get a return of $70,000 from his investment. But after Gosney got his $12,000, the 86-year-old got nothing in return. The 86-year-old's nephew told sheriff's detectives that on the same day his uncle gave Gosney the $12,000, he found Gosney gambling at Little Creek Casino.
On January 17, a sheriff's detective tracked down Gosney at the Thurston County Jail, where he was in custody for a charge of methamphetamine possession. Gosney stuck to his story, that he was going to purchase chainsaws, then sell them, then get the 86-year-old a return for his investment. The 86-year-old's nephew said Gosney told his uncle he had a contract with the "Washington State Department of Forestry" to sell the chainsaws that were being shipped.
There is no "Washington State Department of Forestry."
Gosney pleaded guilty Thursday to the thefts of Busk and the 86-year-old, and to an additional charge of possession of methamphetamine.
He was then immediately sentenced.
Gosney had an opportunity to ask for a drug offender sentencing alternative prior to sentencing. He said he has scars on his arms from years of injecting meth, but that he had changed his ways since getting clean and sober in jail. He said he had gotten in GED in jail and attended narcotics anonymous meetings daily. He asked for an opportunity to continue his drug treatment through the drug offender sentencing alternative, but conceded to Dixon that "I don't expect you to believe a word coming out of my mouth."
Gosney's attorney, Karl Hack, noted that Gosney even had a letter of recommendation from a corrections officer at the jail. The corrections officer wrote that Gosney "has become more honest, trustworthy and learned acceptance in his life." Hack said he cannot deny the "planning and sophistication" behind Gosney's schemes to defraud, but added, "he needs treatment."
Dixon declined to give Gosney the drug offender sentencing alternative, and sentenced Gosney to the recommended time under his plea deal - six years in prison. Dixon said he was "moved and persuaded" by Busk's words about how Gosney's fraud and theft impacted her life.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org