The owner of a Whitefish interior design company on Tuesday admitted to charges in a scheme in which she defrauded customers of approximately $900,000 and used the money for personal expenses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Jennifer Michele Helm, aka Jennifer Michele, 45, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and to aggravated identity theft before U.S. Magistrate Kathleen L. DeSoto.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot is prosecuting the case.
Helm’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 14, 2024 before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen. She faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the fraud charge. Additionally, Helm faces a mandatory minimum of two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, a $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release for the aggravated identity theft charge.
According to court documents, Helm defrauded at least 12 customers of approximately $900,000 from 2016 to 2023 through her businesses Sage Interior Designs, Interior Design Services, and Jennifer Michele LLC.
To execute the scheme, Helm entered into agreements with customers to provide goods and services, usually by promising to order furnishings and fixtures as part of construction and remodeling projects. In some instances, Helm presented her clients with invoices for items she knew she had not ordered and that clients never received.
Additionally, Helm convinced two clients, a married couple, to give her their credit card number, which she was authorized to make purchases with on the couple’s behalf. Instead, Helm used the credit card and directed the proceeds of the transactions into her bank account.
Helm told the FBI during an interview that she was responsible for any misspent funds. She also admitted she knew the money she obtained using the couple’s credit card was deposited into her bank account, but she did not remember how many unauthorized transactions she made with the card.
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