Former Congressman and LA Native Going to Prison for Tax Fraud

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LOS ANGELES--A former U.S. congressman has been sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison in a tax fraud case related to his failure to disclose to the IRS nearly $500,000 of investor funds he received from a $10 million investment fraud scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced today.

Wester Shadric Cooley, 80, a native of Los Angeles who now resides in Bend, Oregon, was sentenced Monday afternoon in federal court.

Cooley will begin serving the prison term on March 11, federal officials stated.

Cooley, who represented Oregon's 2nd congressional district during a two-year term that began in January 1995,  pleading guilty in November 2011 to subscribing to a false tax return. He admitted receiving about $1.1 million during the scheme and that he failed to report approximately $494,000 on his 2002 tax return.

The tax fraud case relates to a mail fraud and wire fraud scheme that defrauded more than 400 victim-investors out of over $10 million.

In the FBI and IRS investment fraud scheme, former IRS Revenue Agent George Tannous and convicted felon De Elroy Beeler Jr. solicited hundreds of victims across the country to purchase unregistered stock in the Tujunga-based Bidbay.com, Inc. and related companies AskGT.com and Rose Laboratories.

Cooley was the vice president of Bidbay and an executive of AskGT.com and Rose Laboratories.

Federal official stated that victims were enticed to put money into the companies by several false statements, including that the companies would conduct initial public offerings.

Investors were also told that Bidbay.com and/or the shell companies would soon be acquired by Ebay, Inc. for $20 per share, federal prosecutors stated.

 Ebay never had any intention of acquiring Bidbay.com and had even sued Bidbay.com for trademark infringement over the use of "bay" in its name, according to federal officials.

Tannous pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of subscribing to a false tax return in 2008. Tannous was sentenced in March to 33 months in prison.

Beeler pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of mail fraud in late 2008. Beeler is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 4, 2013.

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The Court Reporter
Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at rhernandez@vcstar.com.