KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ The founder of a defunct Topeka tax-advice company was convicted Thursday for his role in a scheme that defrauded customers of more than $75 million.
53-year old Michael Craig Cooper was founder and president of Renaissance-The Tax People. U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren says Cooper was convicted of 75 charges including mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. He was acquitted on 73 other charges, including mail fraud and preparing false returns.
A state judge shut down the Topeka-based company in 2001 for operating what officials called an illegal pyramid scheme. Prosecutors say that Renaissance claimed to help people reduce their tax bills. It encouraged people to take deductions for home-based businesses, which usually involved selling the Renaissance system.
Cooper faces a maximum 5 years in prison for a conspiracy conviction; 5 years on each of 17 counts of mail fraud; 5 years on each of 11 counts of wire fraud; 20 years on a count of money laundering conspiracy and 2 counts of money laundering; and 10 years on each of 41 counts of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. Sentencing is set for May 19th.
A separate hearing will be set at a later date on whether Cooper should be made to forfeit $75 million in alleged proceeds from the faud, including money, real estate, cars, collectible coins and other property.