Nonprofit leader accused of running crime ring

Nonprofit leader accused of running crime ring »Play Video
Fred Engh appears in court on Thursday accused of running a crime ring.

VANCOUVER, Wash. – A nonprofit leader is facing federal felony charges accused of running a crime ring.

Fred Engh is on the hook for more than half a million dollars in stolen gift cards.

Engh got a court-appointed attorney in court Thursday morning. Vancouver lawyer Josephine Townsend said he had no idea he was under investigation.

At just 30 years old, Engh has a business degree and is in graduate school. But police believe he's using his knowledge of dollars and cents to run a crime ring.

He's accused of selling more than $700,000 in stolen gift cards in an elaborate scheme.

Police believe people would go inside stores, steal items and return the items for gift cards instead of cash. Then sell the gift cards to Engh. Then the cards ended up on Engh's eBay site, police said.

His attorney said it is a legitimate business. There's no way for him to know if cards he buys from people are stolen. He denies the charges.

Engh already has a prior conviction on federal drug charges and served almost five years in prison.

"He did not pass the criminal background check so he could no longer deliver meals," said Meals and Wheels spokeswoman Julie Piper Finley.

That happened in 2011.

Despite that, Finley said Engh has been an active volunteer. He joined its board last year.

"They can continue to work in the center under supervision of the center managers," said Finley. "So he could serve meals or he could work in the kitchen."

But he couldn't go in to anybody's home unsupervised.

Police are now supervising Engh in jail.

Meals on Wheels wants him off the board.

Meals on Wheels said it is looking at if they can get him off the board as his legal troubles play out. They said they haven't seen him since September of last year.

Engh's attorney said she expects him to post bail on his $200,000 within the next 24 hours.

He'll be back in court on May 30 for arraignment.