The Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reached plea deals with two more defendants in an Ohio mortgage fraud scam that’s already seen three other defendants make plea deals early last year. According to the Justice Department and IRS, Dennis Sartain of Hilliard, Ohio and Bonnie Helt, of Columbus, Ohio were involved in straw buyer mortgage fraud scam. Sartain was allegedly the accountant for the scam’s ringleader, Thomas Parenteau, a luxury homebuilder in Ohio. Helt was a real estate agent working for Parenteau, according to indictment and statements made at the plea hearing. All three were charged in April 2009. In statements made at the plea hearing, both Sartain and Helt admitted to conspiring with Parenteau and others to obstruct the IRS criminal investigations of Sartain, Parenteau and others. Sartain and Helt admitted to altering or destroying records as well as lying to federal and local law enforcement agents. According to the indictments, Sartain conspired with Parenteau and others to file false individual income tax returns for Pamela McCarty with the IRS for the tax years 2000 through 2003. These four tax returns falsely allegedly reported substantial losses and generated tax refunds from the IRS and state of Ohio of over $800,000 in total. McCarty, who was allegedly Parenteau’s mistress, gave a substantial portion of the fraudulent tax refunds to Parenteau or his nominees. In addition, Sartain allegedly conspired with Parenteau, McCarty and others to prepare a fictitious loan application to refinance to improve a 30,000 square foot home. Allegedly, McCarty obtained nearly $4.5m from one bank and an additional $1.5m from a second bank, and transferred the money to Parenteau, who later allegedly received cash kickbacks disguised as payroll checks from Your Home Source (YHS) and JSS Investments, rental payments and consulting payments from YHS and other miscellaneous payments. For his involvement, Sartain pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiring to defraud the United States by impeding and impairing the IRS, conspiring to commit money laundering and conspiring to obstruct justice. According to the indictment and statements made at the plea hearing, Helt admitted that from 2005 through 2007, she, Parenteau, and others negotiated and participated in real estate deals in which they sold luxury homes for a falsely inflated purchase price from the builder in exchange for an undisclosed or disguised kickback. Buyers allegedly misrepresented their income and assets in order to obtain financing of the inflated purchase price. The inflated purchase prices were allegedly justified by false work change orders and addendums, which created the appearance that the inflated price represented additional substantial work to be completed on the homes, which were never done. The loan proceeds were allegedly used to pay kickbacks to the individuals involved and the loans associated with the house purchases went into default. For her involvement, Helt plead guilty to one count of conspiring to commit bank and wire fraud and one count of conspiring to obstruct justice. Parenteau is scheduled to begin trial on March 8, 2010. Sartain and Helt have yet to be sentenced, but Sartain faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million or twice the monetary loss or gain from the offense. Helt faces a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1.25 million or twice the monetary loss or gain from the offense. Write to Austin Kilgore.
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