Accountant who ripped off Olympic snowboarder gets prison

Sports

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A former Oregon certified public accountant who stole about $4.5 million from his clients, including Olympic snowboarder Daniel Kass, to support his “Playboy” lifestyle and marijuana business has been sentenced to over four years in prison.

Victims told a federal judge Thursday how they were duped by Nathan Wheeler’s personable manner only to learn he had bilked their life savings, the Oregonian/OregonLive reported .

Prosecutors say he stole more than $900,000 from Kass and misappropriated the trust fund of two porn shop heirs. He also bought his fiancee an engagement ring using the investments of a retired law enforcement officer, prosecutors said.

“I was working for the American dream,” said Kass, who won silver medals in the halfpipe in the 2002 and 2006 Winter Olympics. “But that dream became a nightmare when I met Nathan Wheeler.”

Kass had started a sports apparel business in Portland in 2001 but said he could no longer support it and had to close. The 37-year-old now lives with his mother in California “all because of Nathan Wheeler.”

U.S. District Judge Karin J. Immergut said Wheeler displayed an “utter disregard for others,” using lies to lure people who trusted him with their retirement savings and their future.

Wheeler, 43, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and attempted tax evasion last year. In court, he agreed with many of his victims, saying he cheated them to fund his lifestyle of “nightlife, booze, drugs and money.” But he said he has been in counseling, got remarried and is focused on his family.

“From 2010 through 2015, my word was garbage,” Wheeler said. “I’ll be sorry and ashamed for the rest of my life.”

The investigation began when the Oregon Liquor Control Commission looked into Wheeler’s medical marijuana growing enterprise. It was much larger than the state’s medical marijuana program allowed, with cash deposits coming in from Washington and Idaho.

Wheeler received $143,390 from out of state for illegal distribution of marijuana, prosecutors said. IRS agents said the drug proceeds went to his shell company, TWG Advisors.

He persuaded clients of his Portland-based accounting firm Bridge City Advisors to invest big money in real estate development projects, promising a high rate of return. Often within hours of his clients wiring him money, he would divert it for his own use or to support his pot business, prosecutors said.

Wheeler’s lawyer, David McDonald, called the fraud “random and reckless,” not a sophisticated venture. Wheeler cooperated with investigators after they raided his home and marijuana operation in 2014.

Oregon Board of Accountancy revoked his certified public accounting license.

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com

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