Hamilton pastor turns self in for alleged fraud; authorities seek 2nd suspect

2011-09-28T23:45:00Z 2012-09-24T20:38:26Z Hamilton pastor turns self in for alleged fraud; authorities seek 2nd suspectBy LAURA LUNDQUIST Ravalli Republic missoulian.com
September 28, 2011 11:45 pm  • 

HAMILTON - One of two Hamilton men charged with theft, fraud and conspiracy turned himself in to law enforcement Wednesday.

Ravalli County Sheriff Chris Hoffman said Harris Himes turned himself in Wednesday morning after learning that there was a warrant for his arrest.

District Judge James Haynes issued bench warrants on Tuesday for Himes and James "Jeb" Bryant after attorneys for the state Office of the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance filed six felony charges against the two.

The charges included theft, fraud, conspiracy to commit both, failure to register a security and failure to register as a salesman of same.

According to court records, Himes and Bryant claimed to own a business, Duratherm Building Systems, and promised at least one investor a large return on his $150,000. But the investor claimed to have never received any returns or confirmation of sale, nor could he get his money back.

Duratherm Building Systems was connected to another company, Monarch Beach Properties, which Himes and Bryant claimed was a "type of parent corporation." The state investigation revealed several inconsistencies with respect to these companies. For one, Monarch is solely owned by Bryant and his wife, and the business address linked to the money-wiring instructions given to the alleged victim is for an apartment complex in Rockville, Md. The state of Maryland has no listing for Monarch.

Duratherm has a website that lists Mexican and U.S. phone contact numbers. The U.S. phone number has a 202 area code, indicating Washington, D.C. Rockville is just outside Washington, D.C., and when the number is dialed the voice on the message claims to be James Bryant, who then signs off with "Have a blessed day."

Himes allegedly instructed the victim via email to send the money to Harris Bank in Chicago, but the bank records of the transaction list a Hamilton P.O. box.

CSI spokesman Lucas Hamilton would not reveal the P.O. box number. But Himes regularly lists his address as "P.O. Box 540, 116 Bowman Road." That address connects a number of questionable dots.

Himes has a ham radio license from the Federal Communications Commission that he got in 2009 and his records list the same two addresses. His call sign, "KF7COP," is on the membership list of the "Valley Watch Network," a group of ham radio operators who meet on the air every Wednesday at 9 p.m.

The list of call signs is read at the beginning of every meeting as a roll call. The discussion focuses on survivalist and "patriot" issues and regularly mentions posts to the website bsoscblog.com, which carries similar information.

That won't surprise those who have followed Himes' public appearances since he landed in the Bitterroot Valley during the past decade. At times brandishing the title of "pastor" and at others that of "attorney," the transplant from California and St. Louis has waged a verbal war against reproductive and gay rights at the state level and against the teaching of evolution at the school district level, a move that led to his defeat in a 2004 bid for a position on the Darby school board.

Himes was also a vocal opponent of Missoula's anti-discrimination ordinance, claiming it would allow transvestites to go in the public bathrooms of either sex.

Himes is licensed to practice law in California, where he got his degree in 1979 from the University of La Verne and is listed as a voluntary attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a legal alliance that argues on the side of religious and conservative viewpoints.

He was also involved in a 2009 event in St. Louis where he testified to police that he and his wife saw who struck a young man at a tea party rally. He blamed two former union members. He later contradicted that testimony during a filmed interview. The prosecution did not call him as a witness. Himes claimed it was because of his notoriety.

Himes claims to have been ordained as a pastor by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, where he served for a few years, said Pastor Kevin Horton. But Himes split from the chapel, Horton said, and proclaimed himself pastor of the Big Sky Christian Center, which lists its address as Himes' post office box.

"For the first five years, we didn't think much of him," Horton said. "But to call him a pastor isn't accurate because he doesn't have a church. There are accountability structures built into a church. He's a self-proclaimed pastor, and at our last ministerial meeting, we discussed what we could do with Himes."

Another group that met about Himes is the Hamilton Lighthouse of the Bitterroot, an emergency shelter with the Bowman Road address used by Himes. The $1 million-plus shelter was proposed in March 2010 using U.S. Veterans Affairs funding and donated land.

Spokesman Gary Locke said the Lighthouse board was meeting Wednesday afternoon to decide what to do about recent events, but he wouldn't say in what capacity Himes served with the Lighthouse.

Reporter Laura Lundquist can be reached at 363-3300 or laura.lundquist@ravallirepublic.com.

 

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