Ex-billionaire's lawyers seek his release from Montana jail after judge's contempt finding

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FILE - In this April 29, 2009, file photo, Tim Blixseth arrives at the federal courthouse in Missoula, Mont. The one-time billionaire is due in federal court in Butte, Mont., Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, to explain why failed to comply with an order to pay $13.8 million to the creditors of an ultra-luxury Montana resort. (AP Photo/Mike Albans, File)


BILLINGS, Montana — Attorneys for jailed real estate mogul Tim Blixseth filed an emergency motion with a federal judge Friday seeking his release, saying the one-time billionaire was willing to provide whatever information the court wants.

U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon on Thursday found Blixseth in contempt and ordered him incarcerated until he accounts for millions of dollars owed to his creditors.

Blixseth attorney Michael Ferrigno asked Haddon for a five-day stay on that order. That would give his client time to obtain documents related to the 2011 sale of a Mexico resort in defiance of an earlier court order, Ferrigno wrote in his request.

"Mr. Blixseth simply cannot comply with anything that the court directs from a jail cell," he wrote.

Haddon didn't immediately respond to the motion Friday evening.

Ferrigno said Blixseth had been trying to produce the requested material but Haddon's incarceration order failed to detail exactly what else he must do.

A second attorney, Philip Stillman, said he received a collect telephone call from Blixseth on Friday from the Missoula County jail. Blixseth said he would "provide whatever additional documentation that this court required," Stillman stated.

Blixseth, 64, founded Montana's Yellowstone Club and was blamed for driving it into bankruptcy in 2008. Creditors say he diverted $286 million from the club for his personal use before turning the resort over to his former wife at the time of their divorce.

Haddon has twice found Blixseth in contempt of court — first in 2013 for selling the property in Mexico when he'd been ordered not to, and again this week for not providing a full accounting of where the money went.

Blixseth claims the money has been spent. He provided hundreds of pages of financial documents — many of them in Spanish — and testified for more than two hours before Haddon Thursday about the $13.8 million sale.

The judge was unsatisfied and told Blixseth he will remain jailed until he gives up more information.

The trustee for the Yellowstone Club Liquidating Trust, which represents the club's remaining creditors, said Friday that Blixseth needs to give more details if he wants to be freed.

"He has the keys to his own jail cell. He just has to tell the truth. He just has to show what happened with the money," said trustee Brain Glasser, an attorney with the West Virginia law firm Bailey & Glasser.

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