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May 19, 2011

The indictment alleges that the defendant acted as a "straw buyer" for the purchase of residential property in Ankeny, Iowa

Des Moines, Iowa -- On May 19, 2010, Ronald Lee Wheeler, age 68, appeared in United States District Court in response to an Indictment filed April 29, 2010, which charged Wheeler with two counts of making false statements to a financial institution, announced United States Attorney Nicholas A. Klinefeldt. The Indictment was unsealed, in accordance with the local rules of court, upon Wheeler's initial appearance and arraignment. Wheeler pleaded "not guilty" to the charges in a proceeding before United States Magistrate Judge Ross A. Walters, who scheduled Wheeler's trial for June 28, 2010.

Also charged in the Indictment is Russell Eugene Blessman, age 53. It is anticipated that Blessman will make his initial appearance on the Indictment within the next several weeks

The Indictment alleges that Wheeler acted as a "straw buyer" for the purchase of residential property in Ankeny, Iowa. The Indictment alleges that Blessman's company, "International Acquisitions, Inc.," was in the business of purchasing and "rejuvenating" properties, which would then receive a higher appraisal and a higher resale price. According to the Indictment, Blessman negotiated for the purchase of the property and Wheeler did not supply the funds for the down payment of $193,716.

Wheeler is alleged to have applied for, and received, two separate mortgages on the property. He is alleged to have falsely represented in loan documents that he intended to make the property his primary residence. The Indictment alleges that Wheeler also made false statements in the loan applications regarding his assets and annual income.

The false statements are alleged to have been made on or about June 16, 2006, in a mortgage submitted to Wells Fargo Bank through Mid-American Home Services Mortgage, in the amount of $796,000; and on or about July 22, 2006, in a loan application for a second mortgage in the amount of $484,000, submitted to Citibank Federal Savings Bank. The Indictment states that the deposits of both Wells Fargo Bank and Citibank Federal Savings Bank were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Wheeler is an attorney and is currently the County Attorney for Clarke County, Iowa. He was elected Clarke County Attorney in November 2006.

The maximum penalty for knowingly making a false statement to a federally-insured financial institution is a fine not to exceed $1,000,000.00, imprisonment for not more the 30 years, or both a fine and imprisonment.

The public is reminded that the allegations in the indictment are mere accusations and all persons are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case has been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation--Des Moines Resident Agency and is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

Source: United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Iowa

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