Cooley jailed, ordered to pay $3.5 million for role in fraud scheme

LOS ANGELES — Former 2nd District Congressman Wes Cooley has been sentenced to a year in federal prison for failing to report nearly $500,000 he received from a $10 million investment fraud scheme.

Los Angeles federal prosecutors say the 80-year-old Cooley, who lives in Bend, was ordered on Monday to serve a year and a day in prison starting March 11.

The judge also ordered Cooley to pay $3.5 million restitution to 400 investor victims and $138,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.

The Republican represented Oregon's 2nd Congressional District from 1995-1997.

Investigators say Cooley and two others lured victims into purchasing unregistered stock in Inc. by falsely telling them the company was being acquired by eBay.

Cooley pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return and receiving $1.1 million during the scheme. When he initially fought the charges in 2005, he said a series of strokes the year before left him unable to remember anything for the previous 15 years.

Cooley entered Oregon politics when he was elected as a state senator in 1992. Two years later, while midway through that term, he was elected to Congress to represent Oregon's 2nd District.

In addition to owning a small ranch in the Powell Butte area, he also owned a vitamin supplements company.

In the 104th Congress, he quickly became known for his strong advocacy for private property rights and the military.

But in spring 1996, when he was running for re-election to Congress, the Mail Tribune questioned his statement in the 1994 Voters Pamphlet that he had served in the Army Special Forces in Korea. Lying in an official voters guide is a felony in Oregon.

Army records revealed that Cooley did not finish training at Fort Bragg, N.C., until nearly after the war had ended and that he had never left the states, the Mail Tribune reported.

Cooley continued to insist he had served in the Korean War on a secret mission and named a sergeant he had served with, but said the sergeant was deceased. Unfortunately for Cooley, The Oregonian tracked down the sergeant ... who was very much alive in Arizona. The sergeant said Cooley's story was a fabrication.

Under increased pressure from the GOP, Cooley withdrew from the race and former Congressman Bob Smith came out of retirement to serve one final term. The seat is now held by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore.

In December 1996, Cooley was indicted for lying about his military service in the 1994 Voters Pamphlet. Although he claimed the documents proving his assertions were destroyed in a fire, Cooley later accepted a plea agreement in Marion County Circuit Court, where he was convicted of lying in an official document. He was sentenced to two years' probation, required to perform 100 hours of community service and fined $5,000.

Questions also were raised about claims that he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa in college and that he had a law degree. He was neither a member of the fraternity nor a law school graduate.

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