Two Des Moines women who married in Canada in 2003 and were active advocates for gay marriage today pled guilty to multiple felonies in their embezzlement case. Fifty-nine-year-old Phyllis and 58-year-old Marla Stevens pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to file false income tax returns.
In addition, Phyllis Stevens pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, one count of computer fraud, and one count of filing a false income tax return. In a written plea agreement, Phyllis Stevens admitted to receiving nearly six million dollars by making false entries into the computer system of her employer, AVIVA U.S.A. She also admitted to using large sums of this money to purchase real estate and for making large payments to American Express.
She further admitted to filing false income tax returns which failed to report the embezzled income in her own name, and which sometimes falsely reported the income in the names of other individuals as part of an effort to conceal the fraud. Marla Stevens admitted that she knew or had reason to know that Phyllis Stevens was receiving income from some form of unlawful activity, that she participated in financial transactions with the proceeds of Phyllis Steven’s unlawful activity, and that she participated in the filing of false income tax returns.
The women made tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Democratic politicians in 2006 and 2008. They also formed two political action committees: Rainbow Equality and Queer PAC that supported Gay rights issues. Each of the women face the possibility of decades in prison when they are sentenced January 21st.
The U.S. Attorney says the maximum penalties for the charges under the plea agreement are as follows:
Wire Fraud (Counts 4 and 12): 5 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both a fine and imprisonment; and up to 3 years of supervised release.
Computer Fraud (Count 13): 10 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both a fine and imprisonment; and up to 3 years of supervised release.
Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering (Count 16): 20 years imprisonment, a $500,000 fine (or twice the value of the money involved in the offense), or both a fine and imprisonment; and up to 3 years of supervised release.
Conspiracy to File False Income Tax Returns (Count 21): 5 years imprisonment, a $250,00 fine, or both a fine and imprisonment; and up to 3 years of supervised release.
Filing a False Income Tax Return (Count 22): 3 years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, or both a fine and imprisonment, together with the costs of prosecution; and up to 1 year of supervised release.