Business & Economy
Senators Press for Action to Keep Navigation Flowing on the Mississippi River PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 19 November 2012 13:45
WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today joined other senators from states along the Mississippi River to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to remove impediments to navigation on the Mississippi River, as well as ensure water flow from the Missouri River does not impede Mississippi River navigation.

Grassley, along with Senators Tom Harkin, Roy Blunt, Dick Durbin, Mary Landrieu, Lamar Alexander, Amy Klobuchar, David Vitter, Claire McCaskill, Mark Kirk, Mark Pryor, Roger Wicker, Al Franken, Thad Cochran and John Boozman requested the action from the Army Corps of Engineers in an effort to keep commerce flowing on the river.

“The drought resulted in low water levels that have created challenging shipping conditions in some spots along the river for grain and other exports,” Grassley said.  “The action we’re requesting is not unprecedented, and could have a major and positive impact on the economy up and down the river.”

Here is a copy of the text of the letter.  Click here for a signed copy of the letter.

 

November 16, 2012

The Honorable Jo-Ellen Darcy

Assistant Secretary for Civil Works

108 Army Pentagon

Room 3E446

Washington, DC 20310-0108

 

Dear Secretary Darcy:

We are requesting immediate action to prevent an impending disruption to inland waterways navigation caused in large part by the 2012 drought particularly in the Missouri River Basin. A very large share of the flows into the Mississippi River at St. Louis are derived from the Missouri River.

On or about November 23, 2012, the United States Army Corps of Engineers may begin to impound Missouri River water in accordance with the annual operating plan for the Missouri River. This action will lead to a crisis on the Mississippi River when commerce is interrupted due to low water conditions that prevent the maintenance of the congressionally-authorized 9-foot channel.

Fortunately, we understand that the Corps has the ability to remove impediments to navigation by demolishing rock pinnacles – particularly at Thebes, Illinois – in order to avert the looming crisis. We urge the Corps of Engineers to undertake this work as soon as possible. If authority can be found, we also request that the impoundment of Missouri River water be delayed until the rock work is completed so that navigation can be maintained. Our support for those flows is with an understanding that no other beneficial use would be seriously impacted and that any deficit of water for other various uses would be repaid from future navigation flows. We believe that the USACE Master Manual permits such deviations.

The Mississippi River is vital to commerce for agriculture and many other goods, including our ability to export our goods. If the river channel is not maintained, there will be a loss of jobs, income to many businesses and farmers, and an adverse impact to the economy of the region as a whole.

We encourage you to take action to preserve this crucial artery of commerce. We appreciate your consideration of this important issue.                             

 
Google announces additional major investments in Iowa PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Office of the Governor of Iowa   
Friday, 16 November 2012 15:46

Total Iowa Investment by Google to top $1.1 Billion

(DES MOINES) – Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds were joined by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan, Council Bluffs officials, and representatives from Google today at a news conference at the State Capitol in Des Moines.

During the news conference, the leaders detailed Google’s plan to continue expansion of its data center operations in Iowa. With this additional investment, Google surpasses a major milestone of investing over $1 billion in Iowa.

“Google’s decision to continue its investment in Iowa is a tribute to the company, and to Iowa,” said Governor Terry Branstad. “We have worked hard to make Iowa an attractive and safe place to do business, and this is another example of that work bringing great results. Google has found a unique recipe in Iowa: an educated workforce, reliable tax structure, and reasonable energy costs. Google’s substantial investment, now totaling more than $1.1 billion, represents a major step towards Iowa building a diversified and forward looking economy.”

“We are proud of all that Google has accomplished in Iowa, and we are also grateful for the significant investments they have put back into the state and community. Google has truly gone above and beyond in making the lives of Iowans better,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal (D-Council Bluffs) stated, “Google’s decision to build in Iowa, and its continued investment are a clear example of a successful local, state and private partnership. Working together, we’ve built a framework for success that benefits private industry and the State of Iowa.”

Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanafan noted “Google is a good neighbor, as we’d say here in Iowa, helping our local schools, non-profits and the community. The decision to continue its substantial investment in Council Bluffs is a tribute to the strong partnership our city and county governments have built with Google.”

Coming within four years of first opening the Council Bluffs Data Center, surpassing the $1 billion investment amount puts Google in the top tier of new companies that have chosen Iowa as an operations center.

The Google data center in Council Bluffs currently employs more than 130 workers and houses computer systems and associated components that support services such as Google Search, Gmail, Google Maps, and new products including Google+.

“Since opening our data center operations here in 2009, we have been committed to Council Bluffs and to Iowa,” Google Data Center Operations Manager Chris Russell said. “We have an outstanding workforce in the Council Bluffs area, and we are so appreciative of the exceptional welcome we have received from the local community and the state of Iowa.  We are glad to be in Iowa, and Google’s future here is very bright.”

About Google

Google’s innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. The Google data center located in Council Bluffs, Iowa, houses computer systems and associated components that support services such as Google Search, Gmail and Google Maps and Google + and employs more than 30,000 people. Google’s targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. For more information, visit www.google.com/micrositeforcouncilbluffs .

Google was recently recognized at the top of Fortune Magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2012. In addition, the data center also received ISO 14001 and 18001 certification, which is the standard for environmental management and workforce safety. Google is the first major Internet services company to gain external certification for their high environmental and workforce safety standards for all of their U.S. data centers.

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Department of Management releases cost of union bargaining proposal PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Tim Albrecht   
Friday, 16 November 2012 15:13

(DES MOINES) – The Iowa Department of Management today released the following costs associated with the collective bargaining proposal put forth today by the union. If the union proposal were extended to all state employees, the costs from all funding sources would be as follows:

Overall:

Year 1 (FY ’14): $122 million increase

Year 2 (FY ’15): $159 million increase

Across-the-Board salary increases:

Year 1 (FY ’14): $35 million increase

Year 2 (FY ’15): $72 million increase

Step salary increases (4.5% average salary increase):

Year 1 (FY ’14): $47.4 million increase

Year 2 (FY ’15): $45 million increase

Benefits (Health care, retirement, etc.)

Year 1 (FY ’14): $39.5 million increase

Year 2 (FY ’15): $42 million increase

# # #

 
the fiscal cliff and taxes PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 16 November 2012 11:07

Floor Statement of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

the Fiscal Cliff

Thursday, November 15, 2012

 

Mr. President,

In less than two months, American taxpayers are set to experience one of the largest tax increases in American history.  With the elections behind us, it is time for us to work together to reach an agreement that can pass both chambers of Congress and be signed by the President.

Reaching an agreement won’t be easy, but it must be done to avoid going head first off the fiscal cliff.  By this time we are all aware of the Congressional Budget Office warning that failing to come together threatens to send us into another recession.

An agreement is certainly doable.  But, all we hear about is what revenues Republicans are willing to put on the table.  We need to hear what the President and my colleagues on the other side are prepared to tackle in regard to reforming entitlements that are the long-term drivers of our fiscal problems.

That being said, we will not be able to reach an agreement if the other side continues to insist on punishing entrepreneurs and small businesses in the name of raising taxes on the wealthy.  My colleagues on the other side of the aisle seem to believe that tax increases, particularly on high-income individuals, do not matter.  They argue that raising taxes on the so-called wealthy will return us to the economic growth experienced at the height of the 1990s.

This defies common sense.  If you ask a business owner if raising his taxes will hinder his ability to grow his business, he assuredly will tell you they will.  He understands that the more the government takes from him, the less he has to put back into his business.

This is in line with the general understanding around here that taxes can be used as both a carrot and a stick to affect behavior.  If you want to discourage behavior you impose a tax.  If you want to encourage behavior you provide a tax incentive.

For example, the excise tax on cigarettes has been increased to reduce the number of people smoking.  A tax has been imposed on individuals for not purchasing insurance, so more will.  Our tax code is littered with tax incentives to get people to do more of the things we like and less of the things we don’t like.  Individuals and businesses have and do respond to these incentives.

Yet, if we are to believe the other side, when it comes to marginal income tax rates the influence of taxes ceases to exist.  According to them, we can raise income taxes on the wealthy as high as we want with no ill effects for jobs and the economy.

Well, I have news for my colleagues; high marginal tax rates influence many factors that contribute to economic growth.  Capital accumulation and the availability of a well trained labor force are two important factors influenced by taxes.  Just as an increase in the excise tax on cigarettes leads to fewer packs of cigarettes being purchased, increasing taxes on capital reduces capital accumulation.  Likewise, the more you tax labor the fewer hours worked you will get.  In other words, taxes matter.

Some of my colleagues on the other side have pointed to a Congressional Research Service report they claim proves raising the top marginal tax rate does not impact economic growth.  There has been ample criticism of this one analysis that I will not go into here.

But, even if one gives any credence to this one analysis, it must be viewed in light of a larger body of economic research that indicates higher taxes do hinder economic growth.  This research confirms that high marginal rates reduce the hours worked and are a disincentive to small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Among this research is a 2007 study by Christina Romer that found that a tax increase of one percent of GDP reduces economic growth by as much as three percent.  According to this study, tax increases have such a substantial effect on economic growth because of the “powerful negative effect of tax increases on investment.”

The last thing we need to do now is discourage business investment.  Business investment has been stagnant.  This has directly contributed to slower economic growth than in past economic recoveries.  It has also contributed to weak job creation and wage growth.

Raising marginal tax rates on entrepreneurs and business owners, thereby reducing their after-tax rate of return is not the answer.  We need to give entrepreneurs and business owners the certainty they need to start investing again.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has issued several reports analyzing how different forms of taxation impact economic growth.  This OECD research found that income taxes significantly impact economic growth.

According to this research, the most damaging tax was the corporate income tax followed by the individual income tax.  The study further noted that highly progressive individual income tax rates are negatively associated with economic growth.

The United States of course relies extensively on both corporate and individual income taxes.  Our corporate rate of 35 percent is the highest in OECD countries, which is bad in its own right.  But a large number of American businesses are taxed at the individual rate, not the corporate rate.  We also already have a highly progressive tax system.  In fact, according to a 2008 OECD study we have “the most progressive tax system and collect the largest share of taxes from the richest 10 percent of the population.”

Currently, the top individual rate of 35 percent is the same as the top corporate rate.  Starting in 2013, if the President has his way, the top rate goes up to 39.6 percent with the second highest rate scheduled to go up to 36 percent from 33 percent.  When you consider the effects of the personal exemption phase-out and limitation on itemized deductions, the marginal effective tax rate jumps to over 41 percent.

These tax increases will hinder the growth of small businesses, and of course, slower business growth means slow job growth.

Evidence of this is documented by a 2001 study available from the National Bureau of Economic Research.  This study looked at how the marginal rate cuts in the 1986 tax reform affected the growth of small firms.  The study showed that businesses that experienced the largest marginal rate cuts saw their businesses grow the fastest.  Conversely, the study concluded that when marginal tax rates go up, the growth of small businesses goes down.

Similarly, a 2005 study conducted by the Small Business Administration found that “lower marginal rates on entrepreneurial income encourage more entrepreneurial entry and lower rates of exit, and lengthen the duration of spells of activity.”  This means that if my colleagues are successful in raising the top two marginal rates there will be less entrepreneurial activity. Fewer people will seek to start their own business and more current business owners will be looking to close up shop.

Further research confirms that high marginal tax rates leads to fewer hours worked.    A 2008 study that appeared in the Journal of Monetary Economics and a 2004 study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis examined how taxes impact the labor supply across time and across countries.

Both these studies found that countries with higher marginal tax rates generally worked fewer hours.  Conversely, those with low marginal rates worked more hours.  In fact, these studies, controlling for other variables, found that the marginal tax rate accounted for the “vast majority” or “preponderance” of the difference in hours worked.

Research by economist Michael Keane has highlighted that high marginal rates have the biggest impact on labor over the long-run.  This is because of the effect of marginal rates on lifetime decisions.

While a sudden increase in taxes may not lead to an immediate shift in current hours worked, it will impact future decisions.  For instance, higher marginal rates will discourage the accumulation of human capital through work experience and training.  His review of research in this area further concluded that the effect of high marginal tax rates is especially pronounced when it comes to women’s participation in the workforce.

There are many more examples of economic research that points to high tax rates hindering economic growth.  For the sake of time, I am not going to go through all of them. Instead, I ask unanimous consent to place a list of more than 20 studies in the record.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I believe these provide a good starting point for my colleagues who are interested in learning the truth about taxes.

In sum, this research suggests that soaking the rich through an ever more progressive tax code will only reduce incentives for work and entrepreneurship thereby reducing economic growth.  It means that:

-              For a couple deciding whether or not a spouse who left the workforce should go back to work, taxes matter.

-              For an individual who is considering investing in their own human capital through education or training to increase their earning potential, taxes matter.

-              For a small business owner considering hiring employees, purchasing equipment, or expanding their business, taxes matter.

-              For an entrepreneur deciding whether or not a business venture is worth pursuing, taxes matter.

Let me turn to another argument used by my colleagues on the other side to support increasing taxes.  This argument is that tax increases on the wealthy are necessary to reduce the deficit and balance the budget.

The truth is there are not enough so-called rich people to make this happen.  Based on 2009 tax returns, if you raised the top tax rate on income over $200,000 to 100 percent, you would still come short of covering the $1.1 trillion budget deficit for fiscal year 2012.

This back of the envelope calculation assumes that people will not work less or engage in tax planning or fraud to avoid such a confiscatory tax.  I imagine my colleagues on the other side would even concede this would be the case with such a high rate.

For people out there who think they don’t have to worry about the President’s proposals because you are not wealthy, my message to you is this:  You should be worried, because in order to tackle the deficit and pay for all his proposed new spending, the President will have to increase taxes on individuals well under $200,000.

The President, of course, claims that he wants a balanced approach to deficit reduction.  He says we should do a combination of tax increases and spending cuts.  So far he has been rather specific about his tax increases.  However, he has not said much about entitlements that are going to be the main drivers of our national debt over the coming years and decades.

The President needs to lead in this area to get a serious discussion rolling.  He needs to begin offering serious solutions, not just attacking those that have been offered up by Congressman Ryan in his budget proposal.

Given my tenure in Congress, I have learned to be skeptical when people around here start saying we will reduce the deficit by raising taxes now and cutting spending later.  Especially when no specifics are articulated regarding what programs can be cut or what reforms they will accept for addressing entitlements.  It’s been my experience in these situations, the taxes always go up, but the spending cuts never happen.

Professor Vedder of Ohio University, who has studied tax increases and spending for more than two decades, confirms this in recent research.  Professor Vedder looked at tax increases and spending spanning from the end of WW II through 2009 and discovered that  “each dollar of new tax revenue has been associated with $1.17 in new spending.”

If we are ever going to get a handle on the deficit, we are going to need to learn to live within our means.  Spending as a percent of GDP has averaged about 20.5 percent since 1970.  From 1998 to 2001, when we did balance the budget, spending as a percent of GDP averaged 18.5 percent.  In fact we have never balanced the budget with spending as percent of GDP exceeding 20 percent.  Spending under President Obama has averaged 24.5 percent of GDP.  We must curtail our spending if we ever hope to balance the budget in the future.

Some around here insist that cutting spending will be as damaging, if not more so, than increasing taxes. They use the rationale of spending multipliers pushed by some economists that suggest for every dollar of spending by the government we will get more than a dollar in economic activity.

This theory is deeply flawed.  Even if we assume the government spends money wisely with no fraud, waste or abuse - and that is a big if – it means one less dollar to be spent by the private sector.

If this was solid economic theory our economy should be booming given all the money we have been spending around here.  The truth is spending is not the solution to our problems, it is our problem.  It is what got us into this mess in the first place.

For my colleagues who are still wedded to the idea that tax increases are preferable to spending cuts, I recommend reading a recent study by Harvard Economist Alberto Alesina.  Given the fiscal shape of many countries, Professor Alesina studied the impact of spending and tax policies put in place to address fiscal imbalances.

His research concluded that “fiscal adjustments based upon spending cuts are much less costly in terms of output losses than tax based ones.  In particular, spending-based adjustments have been associated with mild and short-lived recessions, in many cases with no recession at all. Instead, tax-based adjustments have been followed by prolonged and deep recessions.”

This research paper comes on the heels of a paper he released in 2009.  This paper similarly found that policies favoring spending cuts over tax increases are more likely to reduce the deficit.

In the words of Professor Alesina, fiscal adjustments “based upon spending cuts and no tax increases are more likely to reduce deficits and debt over Gross Domestic Product ratios than those based upon tax increases.”

These studies confirm what through shear common sense Winston Churchill knew more than a half century ago, “for a nation to try and tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

In the coming weeks, I hope to work with my colleagues and the President to reach a bipartisan agreement to help put our country back on sound fiscal footing.  However, as I said in the beginning, it can’t be just one side of the aisle that is expected to come to the table.  My colleagues on the other side must be willing to put real reforms to address entitlements and our out of control spending on the table.

I yield the floor.

 

1.            Alberto Alesina, Carlo Favero, and Francesco Giavazzi. “The Output Effect of Fiscal Consolidations.” National Bureau of Economic Research

2.            Michael Keane and Richard Rogerson. 2012. "Micro and Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: A Reassessment of Conventional Wisdom." Journal of Economic Literature.

3.            Michael Keane. 2011. “Labor Supply and Taxes: A Survey,” Journal of Economic Literature.

4.            Christina D. Romer and David H. Romer. 2010. “The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks,” American Economic Review.

5.            Robert Barro and Charles Redlick. 2010. “Macroeconomic Effects from Government Purchases and Taxes,” Mercatus Working Paper.

6.            Andreas Bergh and Martin Karlsson. 2010. “Government Size and Growth: Accounting for Economic Freedom and Globalization,” Public Choice.

7.            Andrew Mountford and Harold Uhlig. 2009. “What are the Effects of Fiscal Policy Shocks?” Journal of Applied Econometrics.

8.            Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna. 2009. “Large Changes in Fiscal Policy: Taxes vs. Spending” NBER Working Paper.

9.            Jens Arnold. 2008. “Do Tax Structures Affect Aggregate Economic Growth? Empirical Evidence From A Panel of OECD Countries.” Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Working Paper

10.          Lee Ohanian, Andrea Raffo, and Richard Rogerson. 2008. “Long-term Charges in Labor Supply and Taxes: Evidence from OECD Countries, 1956-2004,” Journal of Monetary Economics.

11.          Diego Romero- Ávila and Rolf Strauch. 2008. “Public Finances and Long-Term Growth in Europe: Evidence from a Panel Data Analysis,” European Journal of Political Economy.

12.          Donald Bruce and Tami Gurley. 2005. "Taxes and Entrepreneurial Activity: An Empirical Investigation Using Longitudinal Tax Return Data." Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy

13.          Edward Prescott. 2004. “Why Do Americans Work So Much More Than Europeans?” Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Quarterly Review.

14.          Steven J. Davis and Magnus Henrekson. 2004. “Tax Effects on Work Activity, Industry Mix and Shadow Economy Size: Evidence from Rich-Country Comparisons,” National Bureau of Economic Research.

15.          William M. Gentry and R. Glenn Hubbard. 2004. "Success Taxes, Entrepreneurial Entry, and Innovation, National Bureau of Economic Research.

16.          Emanuela Cardia, Norma Kozhaya, and Francisco J. Ruge-Murcia. 2003. “Distortionary Taxation and Labor Supply,” Journal of Money, Credit, and Banking.

17.          Olivier Blanchard and Roberto Perotti. 2002. “An Empirical Characterization of the Dynamic Effects of Changes in Government Spending and Taxes on Output,” Quarterly Journal of Economics.

18.          Fabio Padovano and Emma Galli. 2002. “Comparing the Growth Effects of Marginal vs. Average Tax Rates and Progressivity” European Journal of Political Economy.

19.          Fabio Padovano and Emma Galli. 2001. “Tax Rates and Economic Growth in the OECD Countries (1950-1990),” Economic Inquiry.

20.          Robert Carroll, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Mark Rider and Harvey S. Rosen. 1998. “Entrepreneurs, Income Taxes, and Investment” National Bureau of Economic Research.

21.          Eric Engen and Jonathan Skinner. 1996. “Taxation and Economic Growth” National Tax Journal.

22.          Nada Elissa. 1995. “Taxation and Labor Supply of Married Women: The Tax Reform Act of 1986” as a Natural Experiment,” National Bureau of Economic Research.

 
Federal Jury Convicts Former President of Iowa Association of Mortgage Brokers of 18 Mortgage Fraud Charges PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Kevin VanderSchel   
Friday, 16 November 2012 10:10
Paul Kramer Placed Innocent Homeowners, Including an Iraqi Refugee, at Risk of Foreclosure by Failing to Pay Off Prior Mortgages When the Homeowners Bought or Refinanced Their Properties Through His Brokerage and Closing Companies.

DES MOINES, IA – Paul Kramer, age 42, of Granger, Iowa, was found guilty today by a federal jury of 18 counts of wire fraud and bank fraud in connection with multi-million dollar mortgage fraud schemes that resulted in innocent homeowners, including a refugee from Iraq and his family, nearly losing their homes to foreclosure. Kramer is the former President of the Iowa Association of Mortgage Brokers and owned a mortgage brokerage, Kramer Mortgage Company, and closing company, Iowa Closing & Escrow, at the time of the fraud. The jury did not acquit Kramer on any counts.

The same jury convicted Lane Anderson, age 38, of Altoona, Iowa, of two counts of conspiring with Kramer to commit bank and wire fraud. The wire fraud conspiracy involved Kramer and Anderson working together to obtain nearly $1.5 million in mortgage loans using the name and credit score of a contractor who did not actually qualify for the loans and who, in fact, had earned only about $2,000 per month the year prior to the loans. Anderson was not acquitted on any counts.

Trial evidence established that Anderson opened a development company in 2006 that planned to purchase, renovate, and re-sell homes. Kramer provided short-term loans to Anderson’s company to purchase the homes and pay for the renovation work. However, by late 2006, Anderson’s company was unable to find buyers for the homes and thus unable to repay the loans from Kramer. Anderson and Kramer therefore had one of Anderson’s business partners, a contractor, take out 13 long-term mortgage loans in his name from 8 different lenders totaling nearly $1.5 million. The loan applications for the 13 homes contained false statements regarding the contractor’s income, assets, liabilities, source of down payment, source of income, and other matters. Anderson and Kramer obtained the loans in rapid succession and used many different lenders so that no single lender would be aware of all the other loans being taken out at the same time. Kramer then had his closing company close the loans despite false notarizations and false closing documents.

Trial evidence further established that in April 2007 Anderson and Kramer began a check-kiting conspiracy in which they would trade checks of up to $75,000 from accounts that had less than $10,000 in real funds. One of the accounts had only $20.17 in it at the time a $75,000 check was written. However, by circling checks among numerous different accounts, Anderson and Kramer were able to falsely inflate the balances of the accounts, thus allowing checks from Kramer to third-parties to clear. In May 2007, a West Bank security officer noticed the check activity and closed Anderson’s account.

Following the closing of Anderson’s bank account, Kramer began to take funds from the Trust Account of the closing company he owned, Iowa Closing & Escrow, to use for business expenses of his mortgage brokerage, Kramer Mortgage Company. The funds in the Trust Account belonged to lenders and homeowners and should have been used to pay off mortgages in connection with real estate transactions. However, on numerous occasions from 2007 to 2009, Kramer transferred money to his brokerage from the Trust Account, sometimes in amounts of more than $250,000 in a single month.

At first, Kramer repaid the amounts he took out of the Trust Account relatively quickly.

Over time, however, the repayments became less frequent and thus a large deficit developed in the Trust Account. This put unwitting homeowners who used Kramer’s closing company at risk of having old mortgages on their properties not paid off.

Kramer tried to fill the deficit in the Trust Account with mortgage payoff money he was supposed to give to US Bank in connection with a line of credit. Those actions created a new set of problems, however, as the mortgage payoffs related to homes on which US Bank held liens.

By putting money into the Trust Account instead of paying off US Bank, Kramer put the families who owned those homes at risk of foreclosure from US Bank.

Kramer’s scheme culminated in September 2009 when Mohamed Rheem used Kramer’s closing company for the closing of his purchase of a home in West Des Moines. Rheem and his family lived in Baghdad, Iraq, until 2008 but left the country because of violence and threats from insurgents who were angry that Rheem had assisted the United States Army. The family arrived in Iowa in March 2008 as refugees, and Rheem quickly found employment with a dry cleaning company. Over the next year-and-a-half, he saved enough money to make a down payment on the purchase of the home – the first and only house he has ever purchased in the United States.

Kramer’s closing company was used to close Rheem’s purchase of the house. Due to the shortfall in the Trust Account, however, Kramer used the proceeds of Rheem’s new mortgage loan to pay off other mortgages that should have been paid off earlier in connection with other closings. The old mortgage on Rheem’s home was ultimately never paid off, resulting in Rheem spending approximately two years in foreclosure proceedings.

Kramer paid himself large sums of money from his brokerage throughout the year 2009,  including a $50,000 payment to himself the day before the Rheem closing. In total, Kramer misapplied millions of dollars in mortgage payoffs over the course of the scheme and his actions resulted in at least five families not having clean title to their homes.

Kramer and Anderson will be sentenced in March 2013. Each count of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit bank fraud is punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $1 million. In addition, Kramer and Anderson will have to make restitution to the victims of their crimes.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa.

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