Federal judge excoriates two of the defendants as "audaciously dishonest."
After a four-week-long trial in Minneapolis, jurors found two men guilty Tuesday of a complex interstate fraud and money-laundering scheme that prosecutors said bilked more than $660,000 from their former employer, Advantage Transportation Inc. of Eagan.
Clayton "Craig" Hogeland, 41, now of Aurora, Texas, was found guilty of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and income tax evasion.
His friend Jeffrey Cole Bennett, 51, of Arlington, Tenn., was found guilty of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and income tax evasion.
Hogeland's wife, Jennifer Rose Hogeland, 38, was convicted of three counts of income tax evasion.
The mail fraud charges each carry maximum terms of 20 years in prison; the money laundering conspiracy charges, 10 years each; the mail fraud conspiracy charges, five years each; and the tax charges, five years each.
U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz praised the jurors for their diligence in sifting through reams of evidence. After they left the room, he turned to the defendants.
Schiltz called Hogeland "an extremely dishonest man, an audaciously dishonest man." He accused Hogeland of trying to prompt judicial error by offering to plead guilty after the defense had rested its case, but before jurors began deliberations. Schiltz responded at the time that he would only consider a guilty plea after the jurors officially got the case. Hogeland then changed his mind.
"I think that last-ditch guilty plea was an attempt to set me up," Schiltz said.
Hogeland's attorney, John Brink, took the blame. "He was following my advice. There was no attempt to set you up on appeal," he said.
Schiltz said he was torn about letting Hogeland remain free pending sentencing, but agreed to do so with electronic monitoring. He explained that Hogeland has a medical condition that requires close scrutiny, and he wanted proof that the Sherburne County jail could provide it before he orders him held.
Schiltz ordered Bennett taken into custody over the objections of his lawyer, James Thomas of Memphis. "His dishonesty was even more audacious than Mr. Hogeland's," Schlitz said. "It really was jaw-dropping."
Jennifer Hogeland was allowed to remain free on bond pending sentencing.
Advantage Transportation connects freight companies with trucking firms nationwide. It's part of the Dart Transit Co. founded in 1934 by Earl Oren.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Rank argued that Hogeland, a former general manager at Advantage, created four companies -- three of them shams -- and had them bill Advantage for products, most of which were never provided. Hogeland approved payment and Bennett paid the Hogelands kickbacks, which Jennifer Hogeland deposited into their bank accounts.
Defense attorneys told jurors a different tale, alleging retribution by a spurned boss, and a rough-and-tumble shipping industry rife with "brother-in-law deals" that reward fixers for arranging contracts. Any tax issues were simple errors, they argued.
Rank praised investigators with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Inspection service, noting that the case involved substantial sums and multiple entities in several states.
"The jury did a good job," he said.
Dan Browning • 612-673-4493