Sackett accused of sex trafficking

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SANDPOINT — A Priest Lake businessman embroiled in a high-profile wetland dispute with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been arrested in North Dakota on a federal sex-trafficking charge.

Michael Thomas Sackett made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Bismarck on Tuesday and was held in custody until Friday, court documents indicate.

Sackett, 47, attempted to entice an underage girl to commit a commercial sex act on Sunday in Williams County, N.D., a criminal complaint alleges.

United States District Judge Charles S. Miller Jr. granted Sackett a conditional release on Friday, ordering him to remain at a residence he keeps in Williston, N.D. However, Sackett will be allowed limited in-state travel with electronic monitoring. Sackett was further ordered to surrender his passport.

A Bismarck attorney representing Sackett in the criminal case, Jacob Rodenbiker, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

If convicted of the felony, Sackett could face a lifelong prison sentence.

Timothy Purdon, a U.S. Attorney for the district of North Dakota, moved to seal an affidavit of probable cause in the case to avoid compromising the ongoing criminal investigation or jeopardize the safety of undercover Homeland Security agents conducting the probe, according to court records.

Sackett made national headlines after suing the EPA in 2008 over the disputed wetland, which the agency accused him of filling while developing a home site near Priest Lake.

The case ultimately went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled last year that Sackett had a right to challenge an EPA compliance order.

The case was remanded to Idaho’s federal court, where it pending amid a flurry of briefings.

Sackett and two Idaho businesses he owns — Priest Lake Storage LLC and Sackett & Sackett LLC — were  sued last year in U.S. District Court by the Cincinnati Insurance Co. over an alleged breach of contract involving a Granite Reeder Water & Sewer District construction project.

The Ohio-based insurance company is seeking a $559,000 judgment against Sackett.

Sackett and his wife, Chantell, filed notice in February that they were seeking protection under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in February. A bankruptcy petition filed by the couple lists $2.3 million in business-related liabilities and assets of up to $500,000.

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