Albany, Oregon Man Sentenced to 60 Months in Federal Prison in $5 Million Securities Fraud
EUGENE, OR—U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Joseph Anthony LaCoste, 50, of Albany, Oregon, to 60 months in prison and ordered him to pay $1.6 million in restitution for securities fraud violations. LaCoste, the former chief executive officer of Willamette Development Services (WDS), a real estate development company based in Albany, Oregon, had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud for his conduct associated with WDS.
According to court documents, LaCoste, a former high school teacher and coach, lured individuals to invest with him and WDS be telling a series of lies: he lied about his educational background; he lied about the financial condition of WDS; he lied about the rate of return on the investments; and he lied about the nature and use of the investments. LaCoste also failed to inform his investors that he had been fired from U.S. Bank for dishonest and unethical conduct and that he had previously filed for bankruptcy. Based on his misrepresentations, LaCoste, between 2006 and 2008, duped more than 50 people to invest more than $5.2 million with him and WDS.
In reality, WDS and its alleged real estate projects were undercapitalized, and the projects were not progressing. To avoid detection and to further the scheme, LaCoste and others commingled investor money and transferred investor money between various projects and businesses to make it appear as if the projects were on schedule and the company was profitable. In 2008, LaCoste’s scheme collapsed. At that time, he had failed to complete a single project, and the investors lost their money.
After his WDS scheme collapsed, LaCoste engaged in a new scheme to induce four property owners in Washington to transfer ownership of their property to his control by falsely representing that he had the experience and skills to develop their property into a profitable real estate venture. Similar to his WDS investors, LaCoste falsely promised these property owners a huge return and failed to tell them that he had been fired from U.S. Bank for dishonest and unethical conduct and that he had previously filed for bankruptcy. In the end, this scheme also collapsed, and the property owners lost more than $150,000.
LaCoste’s codefendants, Angela McCoy and Anthony Tuomi, are scheduled to be sentenced on January 28, 2015, at 1:30 p.m. before the Honorable Thomas M. Coffin.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities.