}

Sunday, March 1, 2015

SMART SCHOOLS MANAGEMENT, INC. 401K: Where's Full Spectrum?

If you participate in the Smart Schools Management, Inc. 401K plan, Miss Fortune would like to hear from you.

Here's why.

At left is Smart Schools Management's most recent Form 5500 annual report filing. Due to the Department of Labor's reporting requirements, it's for the year ending December 31, 2013.

But here's the thing--although it was issued just this past October 13, 2014, the report still shows Steven Ingersoll as the plan's sponsor and administrator. The plan's address is the same as the Grand Traverse Academy's, 1245 Hammond Road East in Traverse City.

And while Ingersoll still ostensibly runs the Bay City Academy and may still be using this fund for Bay City employee contributions, I am unable to locate a 401K record for Full Spectrum Management using an official Department of Labor database nearly one year after the company assumed control of managing the Grand Traverse Academy. 

In addition to his 2012 in-service distribution of $217,562 from the fund, Smart Schools Management's 2013 401K 5500 report shows that Steven Ingersoll withdrew another $205,556 in-service distribution.

If an employer-sponsored plan permits in-service, non-hardship employee withdrawals, participants often must meet certain requirements. Plan guidelines may include a minimum age restriction (usually 59 1/2), a length-of-service requirement or both.

If you work at the Grand Traverse Academy and participate in the 401K, I'd like to know if the Smart Schools Management plan transfer to Full Spectrum has begun. And, if it has, I will update this story with that information.

You can send me an anonymous email at: tcmissfortune@yahoo.com.

After all, we're coming up on the one year anniversary of Full Spectrum's March 19, 2014 management takeover of the Grand Traverse Academy.

I would have expected this "proactive" move by now.



COMING MONDAY: Miss Fortune's Ingersoll Trial Recap-Friday, February 27

“The difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is the thickness of a prison wall.” - Denis Healey

Saturday, February 28, 2015

$250,000 "FUTURE ADVANCE MORTGAGE": Steven Ingersoll's Attorney, Jan Geht, Provides His Client With Access To $250K But There's A Catch...And A Twist!

BREAKING NEWS!

Miss Fortune has discovered that Jan Geht, a member of Steven Ingersoll's legal defense team, provided his client with access to a $250,000 line of credit secured by seven of Ingersoll's most desirable Bay City properties just days before the start of Ingersoll's federal fraud trial—with Geht's representative officially registering the "future advance mortgage" with the Bay County Register of Deeds on February 10 as Ingersoll's jury was being selected.

The Perry House, located at 2230 Center Avenue in Bay City, is among the seven residential and commercial properties securing the collateral interest of Geht and his Traverse City-based law firm, Bowerman, Bowden, Ford, Clulo & Luyt, which funded the $250,000 mortgage.

In addition to the Perry House, Ingersoll's personal residence at 1514 Center Avenue in Bay City's Center Avenue Historic District (shown at left and known as the Turner House) and the Webster House Bed & Breakfast are two of the more stellar properties included.


Ingersoll and his wife, Deborah, own and run the Webster House,
located at 900 5th Street in Bay City. Shortly after it opened, Steven Ingersoll was featured in the Bay City Times, touting his now seduced-and-abandoned "Front Porch Renaissance" during a December 2009 "Holiday Parlor Tour". Shown in the photo at right in front of an elaborate side porch at the Webster House, Ingersoll's three-story Queen Ann-style Victorian was to be the jewel in the crown of his now-defunct neighborhood revival program.

PIMP MY SCHOOLHOUSE: BAY CITY ACADEMY'S FARRAGUT CAMPUS ON LIST OF PROPERTIES

Farragut Campus
Four other properties, owned by business entities controlled by Steven Ingersoll, are among the mortgage's collateral: 1501 Center Avenue (Sanford Green House LLC), 1022 N. Birney (Arts District LLC), 301 N. Farragut Street (the Bay City Academy's Farragut Campus, owned by Farragut Schoolhouse LLC) and 1515 6th Street (1515 Sixth Street LLC). 

Miss Fortune spoke on background with a Michigan attorney, not involved in this case, about Geht's use of the "future advance mortgage". Although the attorney admitted it was "unusual", he said the transaction was completely legal and provided Geht with the legally enforceable right to foreclose on the properties should Ingersoll default on his debt. 

Unlike a fraudulent conveyance, where a property is transferred in an attempt to avoid a debt, Geht's future advance mortgage agreement provides Ingersoll with cash in return for the interest in his properties.

While it's a win-win for Geht and Ingersoll, it may be a win-win-lose for the feds.  

It's likely that Geht did an exhaustive title search to determine the existence of any outstanding mortgages, liens and judgments recorded against the properties, while cherry-picking some of the best of Ingersoll's real estate holdings and keeping them from the grasp of federal asset seizure should Ingersoll be convicted.


After all, you didn't see 616 N. Grant, a remnant of Ingersoll's abortive "arts district", on Geht's list, did you?










But here's one twist you can see: the name of the Notary Public who witnessed Steven Ingersoll's February 6 signature on the Perry House document. It's Roy and Tammy Bradley's daughter, Kristy.



Who says there's no honor among...co-defendants?






Thursday, February 26, 2015

"BEFORE THE MEDIA GETS AHOLD OF THIS!": Steven Ingersoll Federal Fraud Trial Coverage; Motion Recap

Here's Part 2 of my first-hand report on Tuesday's session of Steven Ingersoll's federal fraud trial: IS MAKING LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE REALLY A GOOD DEAL WHEN YOUR BOSS MAKES MILLIONS?

You can read Part 1 of Tuesday's coverage (Roy and Tammy Bradley Made How Much?) at this link.

A comprehensive report on the February 6 motion hearing follows the recap.



$250 DOLLARS CASH FOR A 60 HOUR WORK WEEK—& A CROWBAR UPSIDE THE HEAD: A FORMER BAY CITY ACADEMY LABORER TESTIFIES

The prosecution called Matthew Scherret, a former Bay City resident who'd provided "unskilled labor" during the renovation of the Bay City Academy.

Scherret, speaking confidently from the witness stand, provided details of his employment with Roy Bradley's off-the-books construction crew. Scherret stated that although Roy Bradley was his "boss", Tammy Bradley was responsible for paying the crew members once a week in cash. In addition, Scherret revealed that Gayle Ingersoll assisted Bradley's crew, rounding up equipment and "getting us what we needed."

Admitting that he had not received a W-2 or a Form 990, Scherret revealed he had been paid $250.00 in cash for a 6-day work week that often stretched to 60 hours. When asked by the prosection, Scherret stated that he never received any overtime pay during the time he worked on construction projects for Roy Bradley.

Cross-examined by Martin E. Crandall, Steven Ingersoll's defense attorney, Scherret said that he'd been living in a Bay City homeless shelter near the Bay City Academy construction site and was referred to Roy Bradley for possible employment by another shelter resident working on the renovation.

Crandall asked Scherret about his earlier grand jury testimony, and his interactions with EPA investigators.

Pushing the "government overreach" defense theory, Crandall asked Scherret about the last time he'd encountered the EPA investigators near his residence in Caseville. Scherret admitted that one of the two agents, who'd encountered him crossing the street back to his home from a convenience store, called out "Hey Matt! Remember us?"

When Crandall asked Scherret if he knew at the time that his conversation with the agents was "secretly being recorded", Scherret said no.

Cross examined by Gayle Ingersoll's defense attorney, Scherret indicated he'd worked for Bradley's crew for over a year, but denied any familiarity with "geothermal heating".

Roy Bradley's defense attorney, Mark Satawa, continued the defense cross examination and struck a discordant note, referring to Scherret's less-than-minimum-wage, cash-off-the-books employment as "a good deal". Although Scherret had later been provided with a place to live, it was unclear if he paid rent.

Satawa lead Scherret through an examination of the circumstances leading up to Scherret's firing: a physical altercation with a co-worker he identified as "Rudy". (Court records indicate Scherret's co-worker was Rodolfo "Rudy" Rodriguez.)

Contemporaneous news reports indicate that on the morning of April 22, 2011, Bay City Police officers were dispatched to the Bay City Academy construction site at 400 N. Madison Avenue, in reference to an assault. Police found Scherret bleeding from his lip. Although Scherret was initially uncooperative with Bay City Police officers, he ended up telling them Rodriguez had just struck him in the face with a crowbar. 

Scherret stated in court that a Bay City police officer "patted him down" at the scene and found that he had "an ounce" on his person.

When asked by Satawa to explain, Scherret stated he had an "ounce of marijuana" in his pocket.

Scherret opted not to go to the hospital, and was fired shortly after by Roy Bradley for possessing marijuana. Scherret denied having any "bias" against Bradley for terminating his employment when asked by Satawa.

NOTE: Although Rodriguez was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon, a four-year felony, he plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of aggravated assault in September 2011. In exchange, prosecutors dismissed a felony count of assault with a dangerous weapon and sentenced Rodriguez to a year of probation and ordered him to participate in a 12-week anger management course and submit to drug testing. 

The judge also sentenced Rodriguez to two days in jail, with credit for time served, and ordered him to pay $980 in fines and restitution.

Rodriguez is currently serving time in federal prison for make false statements to the grand jury investigating the Bay City Academy asbestos mishandling case.


THE BAY CITY ACADEMY $1.8 MILLION DOLLAR CHEMICAL BANK LOAN: STEVEN INGERSOLL TO PAY OFF LOAN USING "RENTAL INCOME" PAID TO HIS MANAGEMENT COMPANY...BY A SCHOOL HE OWNED...THAT WAS SUPPORTED BY TAXPAYERS! 

Randall Keinbaum, an Assistant Vice President and commercial lender at Chemical Bank, took the stand to authenticate evidence and testify about Steven Ingersoll's Bay City Academy construction renovation loan.

Keinbaum said the $1,802,000 loan included two distinct phases: a twelve-month construction loan (interest only) that would convert to a post-construction mortgage with payments including principal and interest.

When asked by the prosecutor about the United States Department of Agriculture's involvement, Keinbaum stated that the bank required a guarantee from the USDA to enter into the loan agreement with Steven Ingersoll due to agreement's "unique collateral".

Keinbaum explained that a property like Ingersoll's converted church carried more risk than a "square-box office building" if the bank ever foreclosed on the property and attempted to sell it to recoup its investment. Citing the "limited pool of interested people" who might purchase the Madison Avenue property, Chemical Bank required a USDA guarantee to make the loan to Ingersoll.

Walking the prosecutor through the loan-related documents entered into evidence, Keinbaum revealed that the "loan application" included a construction contract between Roy Bradley's Lasting Impressions and Steven Ingersoll's Front Porch Renaissance Group.

Keinbaum stated that, according to the loan documents, "rental income from the management company running the school" would fund the mortgage payments.

Smart Schools Management (owned by Steven Ingersoll) would pay rent to the Bay City Academy (owned by Steven Ingersoll), which would use the revenue to pay the Chemical Bank mortgage loan.

A lease agreement between the "Bay City Academy Steering Committee" and "Front Porch Renaissance Group" accompanied the loan application.  The lease agreement was signed by current Bay City Academy board member Craig Johnston, and Steven Ingersoll. 

References to "Front Porch Renaissance Group" were later replaced in loan documents by "Madison Arts LLC", another entity controlled by Steven Ingersoll.

Direct examination of Keinbaum by the government wrapped up with a brief review of the loan's restrictions, including "no distributions without prior bank approval" and "no outside borrowing or assumptions of liabilities or obligations of others" before Tuesday's session was adjourned.

PEREMPTORY CHALLENGES AND MOTIONS IN LINIME: MOTION COMMOTION

On February 6, Judge Ludington conducted a hearing on the parties’ motions in limine. Each pending motion in limine was addressed at the hearing:
 

-Gayle Ingersoll: motion for additional peremptory challenges
The prosecution is entitled to seven peremptory challenges and defendants are entitled to divide eleven peremptory challenges. Because there has been "some pretrial publicity" about this case and its subject matter, Gayle Ingersoll requested additional peremptory challenges to "ensure a more impartial jury". Judge Ludington determined that the character of the pretrial publicity
did not warrant additional peremptory challenges, and denied Gayle Ingersoll’s motion for additional peremptory challenges on the record.



-Government motion regarding an “accounting advice” defense
Seeking to foreclose the defendants’ assertion that their accountants—rather than defendants themselves—were responsible for the alleged tax evasion, the government presented its motion regarding an “accounting advice” defense. Ludington concluded that the availability of the accounting advice defense would "depend on the proofs adduced at trial". All parties agreed that to merit an accounting advice jury instruction, the defendants would have to make a showing of "full disclosure and good faith reliance".


-Government motion regarding Smart Schools model
During the hearing, the government argued that the efficacy of
the curriculum—that is, the successes of the Smart Schools model—was irrelevant to the charges in the indictment. Defense counsel for Steven Ingersoll claimed that the information may be "relevant to his state of mind but that the issue of relevancy should be determined during the trial". Ludington agreed, noting that a relevancy determination would depend on the factual situation presented at trial. 


-Government motion regarding geothermal heating
The government argued that mechanics or advantages of geothermal were irrelevant to the charges in the indictment, especially because geothermal heating was not actually used by Bay City Academy. Ludington noted that "the relevancy of geothermal heating would depend on the facts adduced at trial." Ludington noted that it was unlikely that the mechanics of and the science behind geothermal heating would be relevant. 

However plans to use geothermal heating would be relevant in, for example, explaining Gayle Ingersoll’s motivation in creating Mid Michigan Geothermal and funding a bank account.

-Steven Ingersoll's motions
Michigan law restricts the use of school-aid funding for the operation of schools. The State of Michigan provided the Grand Traverse Academy with school-aid funds through Lake Superior State University. The GTA then provided the funds to Smart Schools Management to operate and manage the public school academy.

The government alleges that Steven Ingersoll took fat stacks of school-aid funds and used the money for his own purposes, including funding the start-up of his Bay City Academy.

But Ingersoll disagreed, arguing that Smart Schools Management, Inc. loaned him money, which SSM had earned as its management fees. Ingersoll was seeking Judge Ludington to instruct the jury regarding his loan defense to the tax evasion charges in counts six and seven. 


In his motion, Steven Ingersoll referred to section 7, and noted that “costs for school operating purposes include all expenditures necessary to carry out the powers and the financial obligations of the district . . . under the revised school code.” M.C.L.A. §388.1607.

Ingersoll argued that under this provision, it was legal for the GTA to advance funds to SSM, including management fees paid to SSM under the management agreement. Ingersoll claims that SSM “loaned him only those funds which SSM had earned as its management fees.”

The government response noted that this claim is “contradicted by SSM’s own financial records.” Despite the government’s investigation, it “is not aware of any records which would support the claim, and Steven Ingersoll has not produced any as reciprocal discovery.
”  The other reasons, according to the government, were that “even if the payments were loans, they were not reported to the IRS and there would still be an understatement of income tax, and that there is no competent evidence that Steven Ingersoll intended to repay the funds when he received them.”
 
The government maintained that Michigan statute 388.1618(1) is applicable to this case and is one of the crucial reasons why the court should not instruct on Steven Ingersoll’s loan theory as to counts six and seven.
 

Ludington noted that Counts 6 and 7 only address Steven Ingersoll’s alleged "failure to report disbursements from SSM and SSI funds as taxable income". Accordingly, the question for the jury is simply "to determine whether the SSM and SSI disbursements to Steven Ingersoll were, as he contends, non-taxable loans that he was obligated to repay or, alternatively, unreported taxable income." Ludington determined that the jury may resolve this question "utilizing traditional principles of federal law".

Defense counsel for Steven Ingersoll requested a ruling that Chemical Bank documents do not prohibit him from reimbursing himself for funds expended during the construction of Bay City Academy. The government had previously contended that the loan
documents prohibited such reimbursement, thereby forming part of the factual predicate for the bank fraud conspiracy charge.

At the hearing, the government clarified that it was "not relying on Steven Ingersoll’s reimbursement as part of the bank fraud conspiracy charge". 


Instead, the government contended that Steven Ingersoll committed bank fraud when (1) he stated that he did not have any outstanding loan obligations to SSM, SSI, or otherwise, and (2) submitted falsified sworn statements of the materials and labor invested at the Bay City Academy in order to obtain disbursement of the Chemical Bank loan.

Because the government is no longer relying on the theory that the loan documents prohibit Steven Ingersoll’s reimbursement, his request is mooted.

And finally, defense counsel for Roy Bradley presented his motion for a “lesser included” charge for Count 2, Conspiracy to Commit Tax Evasion. Bradley’s attorney noted that he may be seeking lesser included charges of failure to file W-2’s and/or failure to file 1099’s. Bradley's attorney acknowledged that whether these lesser included charges are merited would depend on the proofs presented at trial, and Ludington noted that a ruling at this time would be "premature".