Ex-Congressman Cooley Admits False Tax Return in Plea Deal

Wester Cooley, the former congressman from Oregon charged in 2009 with helping cheat investors out of more than $10 million, pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return in 2003.

Cooley entered a guilty plea in federal court in Los Angeles, according to court minutes from Nov. 7. He’s scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 27.

According to a Sept. 28 plea agreement filed in court, prosecutors agreed to drop other charges against Cooley and to seek no more than one year in prison at his sentencing. Cooley failed to disclose about $494,000 in income to the Internal Revenue Service, reporting only $36,518 in taxable income for 2002, according to the plea agreement.

Cooley, 79, was accused of taking more than $1.1 million of investor money in 2002, laundering the money to hide a fraud scheme and using it for his own benefit. Cooley, a Republican, represented Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District from 1995 to 1997.

Cooley and co-conspirators sold unregistered stock of Bidbay.com Inc., of which he was vice president, under the false pretext that EBay Inc. (EBAY) would soon be buying the company for $20 a share, prosecutors said when they announced the charges. EBay never intended to buy Bidbay.com and had sued the company for trademark infringement, according to the government.

Cooley’s lawyer, Steve Escovar, didn’t immediately return a call after regular business hours yesterday seeking comment on the plea.

The case is U.S. v. Cooley, 09-00084, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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