A Bend CPA has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for defrauding clients of his former business, Summit Accommodators Inc., out of millions of dollars federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall announced that Brian D. Stevens, 56, was sentenced on Friday. Under a plea agreement, Stevens had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering violations.
He admitted he and others defrauded Summit?s customers from 1999 through 2008, misused over $44 million of customer funds, and caused 91 Summit customers to lose $13.7 million.
Stevens? alleged co-conspirators, CPA Mark A. Neuman, attorney Lane D. Lyons, and Timothy D. Larkin, are charged with the same offenses and are expected to go to trial next February.
At Stevens? sentencing hearing before Judge Michael Mosman, two of the 91 victims testified about their experience with Summit and how the loss of their money affected their lives.
One victim described how she and her husband worked for years to improve their small cattle ranch so they could sell it and buy their dream ranch, how they entrusted Summit with the proceeds of the sale, all of which were lost when Summit declared bankruptcy, and how they have never been able to recover financially.
Another victim described how he and his business partner had entrusted Summit with the proceeds from the sale of their business headquarters, and how the loss of those funds stopped their plans to expand this local small business.
Judge Mosman ordered that Stevens report to federal prison in early September.
Mosman will conduct a restitution hearing in about 90 days to determine how much money he will order Stevens to repay to Summit?s clients.
Stevens, a certified public accountant, acknowledged he and others created Summit to help customers take advantage of lawful federal income tax deferral transactions.
In a typical transaction, a customer would sell income producing property, allow Summit to hold the proceeds of the sale, then buy another income producing property within 180 days.
Federal income tax laws then allowed the customer to defer paying taxes on the profits from sale of the first property.
Summit eventually opened affiliate offices in Texas, Washington, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, and Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Stevens admitted that through Summit, he and his co-conspirators promised Summit?s customers their money would be deposited in a bank, where it would remain for the 180 day period until used to purchase another income producing property.
Stevens acknowledged that from 2004 through October 2008, Summit held between $49 million and $109 million of its customers? money in a typical month.
Stevens admitted that contrary to Summit?s representations to customers, he and his co-conspirators used Summit customers? money to invest in over 100 real estate projects and that he and his co-conspirators had direct personal interests in most of these projects.
Stevens also admitted the conspirators loaned a portion of this money to individuals and businesses, and to themselves.
Stevens admitted he and his co-conspirators concealed this fraudulent activity, in part, by creating a company called Inland Capital Corporation, loaning Summit customer money to Inland Capital, then causing Inland Capital to loan the money to small corporations they created to own each real estate investment.
Stevens admitted he and his co-conspirators further hid the fraud scheme by concealing from most of Summit?s employees and from most of the owner-operators of Summit?s affiliates that the conspirators were using Summit customer money to invest in real estate and to loan to themselves and others.
When Summit?s customers and affiliate owner-operators began to express concern about the safety of Summit customer money, the conspirators used statements in e-mails and other media to convey the false impression that all Summit customer money was deposited and maintained in financial institutions.
?The sentencing of Mr. Stevens to four years in prison should tell every licensed professional there are serious consequences for misusing client funds,? said U.S. Attorney Marshall.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Postal Inspectors, and the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities. Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth D. Uram and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen Cooper, as part of a partnership venture between the Seattle Region, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel and the United States Attorney?s Office in Portland, Oregon, are prosecuting the case.