Seattle Man Given Federal Prison Sentence for Fraud Involving Former Oregon Department of Energy Employee
PORTLAND, Ore. – Martin J. Shain, 61, of Seattle, Washington, was sentenced today to 46 months in federal prison and three years’ supervised release for engaging in a fraud scheme with a former Oregon Department of Energy Employee. Shain was also ordered to pay more than $520,000 in restitution.
“At the expense of taxpayers, small businesses, and the State of Oregon, Martin Shain and Joseph Colello orchestrated a corrupt scheme to profit off the sale of government tax credits. Corruption schemes involving public employees foster a distrust in government that can take years to restore,” said Billy J. Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.
“Mr. Shain undermined the process of fair and open competition when he paid kickbacks in exchange for ODOE tax credit sales,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Darrell Waldon. “IRS-Criminal Investigation is committed to investigating individuals who engage in corruption and tax fraud.”
“Treating a government program as a personal ATM risks the integrity of all public servants who have responsibility for protecting Oregon's resources. The fight against public corruption is a high priority for the FBI, and we look to the public to help us identify those government officials who are taking advantage of their powers and positions," said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
According to court documents, between June 2012 and March 2015, Shain and Joseph Colello, a former employee of the Oregon Department of Energy’s (ODOE) Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) program, maintained a secret business relationship whereby the two would personally profit from the sale and purchase of Oregon BETCs.
Shain and Colello devised a plan whereby Colello would give Shain the names of BETC sellers and interested buyers—information he had access to as an ODOE employee. Colello would then contact the sellers and buyers to negotiate credit transfers, but made it appear as though the Shain had brokered the deals. Shain created a company in the name of his relative in order to receive commission payments from the sellers of the tax credits and to conceal their earned income from the IRS. Shain charged sellers a 1-2% fee, undercutting brokers who typically charged a 10% fee for facilitating similar transfers. Colello would receive a portion of this fee as a kickback.
Between 2012 and 2015, Shain deposited over $1.3 million in income from the commissions charged to sellers of BETC credits. He would transfer a portion of these funds into a personal account from which he would purchase and issue biweekly cashier’s checks payable to Colello. Over the course of the conspiracy, Shain purchased and issued approximately 58 cashier’s checks to Colello or Colello’s girlfriend. In total, Colello received more than $300,000 in bribe payments for his role in the scheme. Shain failed to report more than $1.34 million in income received brokering tax credit sales on four income tax returns between 2012 and 2015.
Colello pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specific unlawful activity, one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, and one count of filing a false income tax return on March 15, 2018. On April 3, 2018, he was sentenced to 60 months in prison and was ordered to pay more than $81,000 in restitution.
Shain previously pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and tax evasion on June 20, 2018. He will self-surrender to the U.S. Marshals on October 25, 2018.
The case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation and the FBI and prosecuted by Claire M. Fay and Scott E. Bradford, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the District of Oregon.