- Associated Press - Sunday, May 21, 2017

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A convicted car thief who injured himself while playing basketball in federal prison won $200,000 from the U.S. government - but it appears most of that money will go to his victims.

That’s because the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld a district judge’s ruling that more than $145,000 of Kappelle Simpson-El’s payout from his lawsuit against the U.S. government go toward the $433,000 he’s been ordered to repay the car dealers he helped victimize, and their insurers. Since his 2014 release from prison, court records show, Simpson-El has paid at least 5 percent of his gross monthly income toward paying off that debt.

The 42-year-old man from Wichita, Kansas, was convicted in 2008 of 25 felony counts related to what prosecutors said was his role as leader of a group that stole cars from dealerships in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Prosecutors alleged that over a three-year span until 2007, Simpson-El and co-defendants stole the vehicles and brought them to a clandestine shop in Wichita, where registration numbers were replaced with tags from stolen cars. Many of the vehicles then were sold, while the thieves kept the others for themselves.

Simpson-El sued the government after he tore his Achilles tendon while serving some of his six-year prison sentence in Arkansas. He alleged his ankle injury was exacerbated by inadequate medical attention and lack of treatment.

But even before Simpson-El got the $200,000 settlement, the government warned him that it would seize any cash payout and apply it to his court-ordered restitution. The government ultimately sought a modification of the restitution order, requesting that Simpson-El pay the entire $200,000 to his victims. The government said the revision was allowed when a defendant’s “economic circumstances materially change.”

A federal judge later ruled that $145,640 of the settlement funds go toward restitution, leading Simpson-El to argue on appeal that the windfall he got could not have amounted to a change in economic circumstances because that payout was meant to compensate for future income loss.

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