White-Collar Crime

County Attorney Accused of Mortgage Fraud Will Stay on Job

A county attorney in Iowa will continue in office after having been criminally indicted in a federal mortgage fraud case.

Clarke County Attorney Ronald Wheeler is accused of misstating his income and assets and lying about his intention to occupy an Ankeny home for which he allegedly served as a “straw buyer,” in exchange for payment of $29,400 from Russell Eugene Blessman, reports the Des Moines Register.

Wheeler is charged with two counts of making a false statement to a financial institution. Blessman, a former corporate officer for International Acquisitions Inc., is now serving a 25-year prison sentence in a pornography and second-degree sexual assault case. He is also charged in the mortgage fraud case.

Wheeler, who declined to explain his relationship with Blessman to the newspaper, said he will publish an open letter this week to Clarke County residents, the newspaper reports.

“The only thing I would ask is that the people of Clarke County withhold judgment on this until the full story comes out,” Wheeler tells the Register. “If I felt that I had done a criminal act, I would resign. I don’t intend to resign unless the people of Clarke County demand it.”

Meanwhile, members of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors said said they will monitor the situation but intend to take no action against Wheeler at this time–and question whether they have the authority to do so, given his status as an elected officials, reports the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune.

The board met with Wheeler, who maintains his innocence, in closed session last week, and intends to wait for a verdict in the case before acting, the newspaper recounts.

“We’ll see what comes out of it,” says Jack Cooley, who serves as chairman of the board. “Right now, we don’t know what our options are. The American justice system says your innocent until proven guilty, and that’s our philosophy, too.”

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