Three of 11 people indicted in January for an alleged scheme to inflate the sales price of a prominent Kansas City, Mo., couple’s home have entered guilty pleas and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in their investigation and testify against the remaining defendants.
Attorneys for three other defendants have also scheduled hearings in which they are expected to enter guilty pleas.
James E. Coleman, 59, an accountant who formerly served as president of the board of a Kansas City magnet school, pleaded guilty Monday to his role in what prosecutors called a conspiracy to defraud Fieldstone Mortgage Corp.
Also entering a guilty plea on a conspiracy charge Monday was James R. Rhoades, 48, an assistant to another defendant, car dealer Raymond Walter Zwego Jr. Both are Kansas City residents.
A third defendant, appraiser Jeremy A. Plagman, 29, of Lee’s Summit, pleaded guilty on May 14 to conspiracy to commit mortgage fraud. Plagman admitted to providing an inflated appraisal of $1.2 million for a home in Kansas City, prosecutors said.
The three defendants each face sentences of up to five years in federal prison without parole on the conspiracy charge, and a fine up to $250,000 and payment of restitution.
Coleman, who prosecutors said admitted to committing wire fraud on three separate occasions in October and November 2006 by transmitting facsimiles of fraudulent documents, faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 on each wire fraud charge.
The case has made headlines in part because the home at the center of the scheme belonged to former Jackson County executive Katheryn J. Shields, and her husband Phillip F. Cardarella. Both were indicted on Jan. 4.
Cardarella and Shields — who after 12 years as the county’s top elected official was planning to run for mayor of Kansas City — have denied the charges.
Prosecutors say the couple was approached by other defendants in the case after their Kansas City home had been on the market for 18 months. Although the house was listed for $699,950 — more than $150,000 less than the original asking price — a sale of the house was allegedly rigged using straw buyers and an inflated sales price.
Prosecutors said the settlement statement for the deal listed a $1.2 million purchase price, with a “management fee” of $414,580. Shields and Cardarella were to receive $707,000 from the sale, with Zwego and other defendants splitting the remaining loan proceeds, according to the indictment.
The alleged straw buyers, Larry E. Barshaw, 56, and Linda M. Thompson-Barshaw, 57, both of Kansas City, have change-of-plea hearings scheduled for Friday, said Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri. Zwego has a change-of-plea hearing scheduled for next week, he said.
Sentencing hearings for the three defendants who have already entered guilty pleas will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the U.S. Probation Office.
Ledford said that under the terms of their plea agreements, the three agreed to provide information and fully cooperate with prosecutors, including testifying at trial, if needed. It’s typical under plea agreements for sentencing to be postponed until after any promises of cooperation have been fulfilled, he said.