MADISON, Wis. - A Bend man and former Wisconsin resident who co-founded three self-help and personal development companies there pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Madison to failing to file tax returns and report more than $1.3 million in earnings between 2006 and 2008, prosecutors said.
John Vaudreuil, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, said Eric T. Plantenberg, 42, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Madison to three counts of willfully failing to file income tax returns for the years 2006, 2007, and 2008.
U.S. District Judge Lynn S. Adelman scheduled sentencing for July 8th. For each count, Plantenberg faces a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and a $100,000 fine.
In his plea agreement, Plantenberg stipulated that he made $1,300,792 in unreported income between 2005 and 2008.
During the years in question, prosecutors said, Plantenberg was an owner of, and made income from, three Madison-based companies -- Freedom Personal Development, Freedom Professional Services, and I-Kinetic.
The charges against Plantenberg were the result of an investigation conducted by IRS Criminal Investigation. The prosecution of this case was assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy M. O'Shea.
In an e-mail to media, Plantenberg commented on the outcome of the case by stating: "After four years of cooperating with the IRS, I'm very pleased that they have dropped all felony charges against me. I've learned an incredible amount through it all, and am very glad that this situation is close to an end."
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that O'Shea said that in 2006, Plantenberg earned $245,325. and documents revealed that he had traveled extensively in the Mideast, Europe, India and Russia that year, deposited $38,500 in an investment account and invested $25,000 in an apartment building.
In 2007, Plantenberg made $312,057 and also traveled extensively in North America, Asia, Africa and Europe. He also invested $260,000. Plantenberg continued to travel in 2008, O'Shea said, on his earnings of $313,171, mainly in North America and South America.
That year, Plantenberg also bought a house for nearly $500,000 in Bend, and spent $180,000 to buy a lot on a private golf course in Argentina, the prosecutor said.
An indictment issued in October alleged that Plantenberg concealed income from the IRS by routing it through the Church of Compassionate Service, a Utah church that was the subject of a lawsuit filed by the federal government in 2010.
Back in October, Plantenberg told The Bulletin the felony allegations were untrue. He said he joined the Church of Compassionate Service as a minister in 2000 and took a vow of poverty that required him to transfer assets to the church. He said he resigned from the church in 2010 when the federal government questioned him about its legitimacy.