Seattle Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud Conspiracy Involving Former Oregon Department of Energy Employee
PORTLAND, Ore. – Martin J. Shain, 61, of Seattle, Washington, pleaded guilty today to one count each of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and tax evasion.
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 faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on each charge. He will be sentenced on September 20, 2018 before U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Jones.
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.