MISSOULA — A Montana man has pleaded guilty to three federal charges for taking millions of dollars in down payments from customers to build steel buildings and instead using the money for his personal benefit.
Jonathan Lee Oliver of Missoula solicited payments of nearly $7.9 million mostly from residents of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota between October 2010 and December 2011 to build steel buildings, but he completed only one building, the U.S. attorney’s office in Montana said.
The payments he received from customers ranged from $90,000 to $993,000, according to court records.
Prosecutors alleged Oliver used nearly $686,000 to buy three new vehicles, a 42-foot motorhome, a house, two personal watercraft and an engagement ring. He also was charged with making 17 withdrawals from his account in amounts just under the $10,000 threshold at which banks are required to file a federal report.
Oliver, 41, pleaded guilty Feb. 25 to wire fraud, money laundering and structuring. He had been indicted on 96 counts of wire fraud, seven counts of money laundering, aggravated identity theft, and 17 counts of structuring. He also faces forfeiture of any property bought with the proceeds of his scheme.
Sentencing is set for June 20.
Oliver also was being sought for violating his probation in an Oregon case when he was arrested Dec. 21, 2011, after a brief chase in North Dakota. The next day, North Dakota’s attorney general issued a cease and desist order against Oliver’s company, Western Steel Structures Inc., for violations of North Dakota’s consumer fraud law. Western Steel Structures had addresses in Missoula and in Salem, Ore.
The cease and desist order alleged Oliver filed for a contractor’s license in North Dakota using a false name and failed to disclose his criminal history. It also said he received at least $1.4 million in down payments on steel buildings but in most cases provided none of the materials and did no work.
In June 2007 in Oregon, Oliver was convicted of two counts of first-degree aggravated theft for taking $34,000 from a couple and failing to build an outdoor horse arena. He was sentenced to 13 months in jail, ordered to pay $26,000 in restitution and prohibited from working as a contractor for two years after his release.
“The most disappointing thing is that three years from now, he can be back doing the same thing,” Tim McCarthy, who was defrauded in that case, told the Oregonian. “I wish he could get 20 years’ probation so he wouldn’t be able to be a contractor again.”
At the time, the Oregon Construction Contractor’s Board was investigating other complaints against Oliver.
Oliver’s attorney, Milt Datsopoulos of Missoula, did not return a phone call from The Associated Press seeking comment Monday.
In 2000 in New Hampshire, Oliver was found to have accepted $625,000 in prepayments for home heating oil that he failed to deliver to more than 1,000 customers. The violations were not a criminal offense so no jail time was ordered, but he was ordered to pay restitution. Oliver filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon four years later, court records said.
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