The former head of the Iowa film office has been found guilty on one of the nine charges he faced in connection with the tax-scandal in his office.
Forty-two-year-old Tom Wheeler was found guilty of misconduct in office for his role in the state program which awarded tax credits for movies and TV shows filmed in Iowa. Wheeler could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Wheeler faced eight other charges, including conspiracy, but the jury found Wheeler not guilty on those counts. Wheeler’s attorneys argued Wheeler had been hired to do marketing and customer relations, but then was thrown into managing a complicated program without adequate training, so he learned on the job by “trial and error.”
Prosecutors argued Wheeler conspired with filmmakers to bilk the state with bogus expense claims. The lead prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Thomas H. Miller, issued a written statement, saying “fraud in state government…cannot and will not be tolerated.”
About $32 million in state film tax credits were awarded before the program was suspended nearly two years ago. The state auditor concludes about $26 million worth of those tax credits were improperly awarded. Some filmmakers claimed credits for extravagances, like Land Rovers, while others did not have proper paperwork to support their claims according to the auditor.
Three other people involved in making movies in Iowa and charged with making improper state tax credit claims still await their trials.