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Former energy tax credit employee sentenced

Joseph J. Colello, 57, of Salem accepted $300,000 in bribes to participate in a money laundering scheme and defrauded the IRS.

PARIS ACHEN/CAPITAL BUREAU - Oregon State Capitol in SalemPORTLAND — A former administrator for the Oregon Department of Energy's troubled Business Energy Tax Credit program has been sentenced to five years in federal prison for accepting $300,000 in bribes to participate in a money laundering scheme and defrauding the IRS.

Joseph J. Colello, 57, of Salem, also was sentenced to three years of supervised release and more than $81,000 in restitution, according to the U.S. Attorney's Portland District Office.

"Government employees are called to be stewards of taxpayers' dollars and interests. Instead, this defendant chose to betray his obligation and defy public trust," said Billy Williams, U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon. "Plain and simple, corruption erodes confidence in government."

As a pass-through program manager for the Business Energy Tax Credit program between June 2012 and March 2015, Colello helped businesses sell their credits by locating buyers he found through his job at the state and negotiating transfers, according to court records. He and a co-conspirator, who has not been named because of an ongoing investigation, made it appear as if the co-conspirator was brokering the deals. They charged sellers a 1-2 percent fee, undercutting other brokers who typically charged 10 percent for the same service.

The co-conspirator founded a sham company to receive commission payments from sellers and conceal earnings from the IRS, according to court records.

The co-conspirator deposited more than $1.3 million in income from the commissions charged to sellers of the tax credits between 2012 and 2015, the court documents show. The co-conspirator would transfer part of the funds into a personal account from which he would issue biweekly cashier's checks as a kickback to Colello for a portion of the fee. During the three-year period, Colello accepted more than $300,000 in bribe payments for his role in the scheme.

He pleaded guilty March 15 to one count each of conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specific unlawful activity, conspiracy to defraud the IRS and filing a false income tax return.

Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau
email: pachen@portlandtribune.com
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