Bonnie Helt of Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Watson in Columbus for conspiring to commit mortgage fraud and obstruction of justice, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced.
According to court testimony and documents, Helt was the real estate agent for convicted Columbus-area home builder, Thomas Parenteau. Helt conspired with Parenteau to commit bank and wire fraud schemes through which the pair defrauded banks and financial institutions of more than $7 million by falsely inflating the purchase prices of the homes that Parenteau built and sold in exchange for the payment of large undisclosed or disguised kickbacks to the buyers after their purchases. After learning of the IRS investigation into their schemes, Parenteau, Helt and others engaged in a scheme to obstruct justice by destroying documents and lying to federal and local investigators. A jury convicted Parenteau for his role in these crimes in July of this year after a two-month trial. Helt pleaded guilty to these crimes in January of this year.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Watson ordered Helt to serve a five-year term of supervised release after her term of imprisonment, and to pay restitution to the victim financial institutions in an amount to be determined by the court within 90 days. Finally, the court ordered Helt to forfeit to the United States government $124,544, which represented the amount of commissions she earned on the fraudulent real estate deals in which she participated.
Helt's co-conspirators, Marsha K. Parenteau and Pamela A. McCarty, are scheduled to be sentenced for their respective roles in these schemes on Jan. 5, 2011. The sentencing for Parenteau is not yet scheduled.
John A. DiCicco, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Tax Division, commended the IRS Criminal Investigation special agents who investigated the case, as well as Tax Division trial attorneys Richard Rolwing and Sean O'Connell, who prosecuted the case.
For more information, visit www.justice.gov.