Jody Stephens Arraigned and Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
Bill Mercer, United States Attorney for the District of Montana, announced today that during a federal court session in Billings on April 7, 2009, before Chief U.S. District Judge Richard F. Cebull, JODY STEPHENS, a 47-year-old resident of Billings, was arraigned and pled guilty to misprison of a felony. Sentencing is set for July 8, 2009. She is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by the United States, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
STEPHENS worked for a car dealership in Montana until January of 2007, serving in the roles of comptroller and office manager. She had actual knowledge of the following facts showing that her supervisor committed the crime of mail fraud.
From at least September 2005 until October 2006, STEPHENS' supervisor knew that employees at the car dealership represented to customers who traded-in vehicles with outstanding loans that their loans would be paid off by the dealership. Because the dealership was suffering financial problems and could not pay off all the loans, the supervisor told employees, including STEPHENS, not to pay off the loans on certain vehicles that had been traded-in. Instead, the supervisor directed employees, including STEPHENS, to make payments on those loans to try to keep the loans current.
The supervisor lied and directed STEPHENS to lie to customers who called asking why the loans on their traded-in vehicles had not been paid off. Specifically, on September 13, 2006, STEPHENS concealed the fraud by lying to a customer and telling him that his loan was not paid off because a girl who worked at the dealership quit and another went to a different department.
The supervisor also knew that employees at the dealership did not tell customers purchasing traded-in vehicles that the vehicles had outstanding liens. The supervisor also knew that employees represented to the purchasing customers' lenders, or knew that the purchasing customers represented to their lenders, that the purchased vehicles did not have outstanding liens when, in fact, he knew that some of them did.
On October 5, 2006, the supervisor caused to be mailed with the U.S. Postal Service a $600 check from the dealership to Wells Fargo Bank which was holding the loan on a vehicle that had been traded-in in order to try to keep the customer current on the loan.
STEPHENS did not as soon as possible make known the crime to someone in authority. She did not make known the crime to anyone in authority at all until she was confronted by federal law enforcement.
STEPHENS faces possible penalties of 3 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 1 year supervised release.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt G. Alme prosecuted the case for the United States.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.