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Press Release

Whitefish interior designer sentenced to more than four years in prison, ordered to pay more than $900,000 restitution for fraud scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

MISSOULA — A Whitefish interior designer who admitted to defrauding customers of approximately $900,000 and using the money for personal expenses was sentenced on March 14 to four years and three months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $933,679 restitution, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said today.

The defendant, Jennifer Michele Helm, aka Jennifer Michele, 45, pleaded guilty in November 2023 to wire fraud and to aggravated identity theft.

U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided.

In court documents and statements in court, the government alleged that beginning as early at 2016, Helm, while doing business as Sage Interior Design, LLC, Interior Design Service, and Jennifer Michele LLC, defrauded numerous customers. Her scheme ensnared more than 20 victims. A few of the victims came forward after Helm pleaded guilty, and Helm defrauded four more victims after her interview with the FBI in 2021, when she presumably knew she was a target of a federal criminal investigation.  

To execute the scheme, Helm entered into agreements with customers to provide goods and services, usually by promising to order furnishings and fixtures as part of construction and remodeling projects. In some instances, Helm presented her clients with invoices for items she knew she had not ordered and that clients never received. In addition, Helm convinced two clients, a married couple, to give her their credit card number, which she was authorized to use to make purchases on the couple’s behalf. Rather than make those purchases, Helm used the credit card and directed the proceeds of the transactions into her bank account. When interviewed by the FBI, Helm said she was responsible for any misspent funds.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot prosecuted the case. The FBI conducted the investigation.



Clair J. Howard

Public Affairs Officer


Updated March 15, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-67