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Ex-US congressman from Oregon faces tax charges

  Tax  -   POSTED: 2009/01/30 17:31

A former Oregon congressman was indicted Thursday on federal money laundering and tax charges that prosecutors said were related to an investment fraud scheme that bilked victims out of more than $10 million.

Former Rep. Wes Cooley, who represented Oregon's 2nd District in Congress from 1995 to 1997, is charged with six counts of concealment money-laundering and one count of subscribing to a false tax return.

He is accused of participating in the scheme from December 1999 until April 2004. In 2002 alone, Cooley took $1.1 million from investors, laundered it to conceal the fraud scheme and falsified his tax return to avoid paying taxes, prosecutors said.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 38 years in prison.

According to the indictment, Cooley and two other men, George Tannous and De Elroy Beeler Jr., lured victims into purchasing unregistered stock in Bidbay.com Inc. by telling them the company would be acquired by eBay for $20 per share. Cooley was the vice president of Bidbay.

Prosecutors said eBay had no plans to buy the company and even sued Bidbay.com for trademark infringement over the use of "bay" in its name.

Tannous and Beeler both pleaded guilty to charges related to the case.

Cooley's attorney, Richard Moss, said his client cooperated with the investigation but might have difficulty recalling things that happened several years ago.

"He's 76, but he's not a young 76," Moss said. "He's not in good health."

In 2005, a civil jury in St. Louis found Cooley and Tannous lied to investors in the Internet startup. The two were ordered to pay $2.2 million to 11 investors.

Cooley denied any involvement in fraud, testifying that he had suffered three strokes and could remember nothing from the previous 15 years of his life. He now lives in Palm Springs.


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