YOUNGSTOWN — Testimony in the trial of attorney Robert J. Rohrbaugh II of Canfield and Terris C. Baker of Canton resumed Monday in U.S. District Court with testimony from Kasey McCollum, the longtime office assistant at Rohrbaugh.
Rohrbaugh, whose offices have been on Belmont Avenue in Liberty for about four years, is charged with conspiracy, aiding and abetting theft of government property, aiding and abetting false tax reporting and filing a false tax return for 2015 that allegedly did not report all of his income.
Baker is on trial in the same case for conspiracy, aiding and abetting theft of government property, and aiding and abetting false tax reporting.
They are accused of helping 43-year-old Brandon R. Mace, a Youngstown man with a history of government fraud, by cashing and using an IRS check for $1,352,779 that Mace fraudulently obtained in jail. In a plea deal, Mace agreed to testify in Rohrbaugh and Baker’s trial.
During opening statements to the jury, prosecutors alleged that Mace filed seven fraudulent tax returns for nonexistent corporations totaling $8.9 million in refunds in 2015, but the IRS dismissed six of them. The IRS paid the seventh refund, for a non-existent Texas company called Speed Weeks and received a refund of $1,352,779.
Mace was sentenced to six years in federal prison in 2013 for claiming bogus income tax refunds totaling nearly $5.5 million, according to a 2013 U.S. attorney’s press release.
McCollum testified Monday that she had worked for Rohrbaugh, 47, for about 20 years, including when their office was on Market Street in Boardman until about four years ago.
She testified that she only knew Baker by name, but knew Mace much better because Rohrbaugh had represented Mace “for many years.”
She said Rohrbaugh told her in 2015 that Mace had a $1 million IRS refund check. When she heard it, she took it as “Brandon was Brandon again” and agreed, under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Erica Barnhill, that Mace was a “career criminal” who had been implicated in financial fraud on several occasions.
She remembers Baker being involved in Mace’s refund check, but thinks Baker only came to the law firm once. She said she believed Rohrbaugh received money from the refund check.
She said she thought the refund check was fake until she learned that the Boardman KeyBank branch had cashed it. McCollum handled financial transactions for Rohrbaugh’s company. She said she remembered having conversations with an employee at the bank branch where the refund check was deposited.
There was a waiting period to see if the check would clear, she said.
Then one day the bank clerk said to McCollum, “’You’re not going to believe this.’ She said the check had cleared,” McCollum said. When McCollum told Rohrbaugh, “I think he was just as shocked as (the bank clerk) was,” McCollum said.
Barnhill projected numerous checks, bank receipts and legal documents onto a screen visible to jurors and parties to the case that was being held in Judge Benita Y. Pearson’s courtroom.
Among the documents were a July 2015 deposit slip of $47,000 that went into Rohrbaugh’s account and $3,000 he took in cash, a $50,000 deposit on August 4, 2015, which McCollum brought in the bank and another deposit of $50,000. Baker was the person who issued the checks, McCollum said.
McCollum also responded to questions about who handled the information used to file Rohrbaugh’s business income taxes, saying she would provide Rohrbaugh’s accountant with all 12 bank statements. She said the accountant mainly dealt with Rohrbaugh.
She did not fill out or sign any tax forms for the company or “police what Mr. Rohrbaugh gave” to the accountant for tax purposes, she agreed.
Cross-examined by Samuel Amendolara, Rohrbaugh’s lawyer, McCollum said Rohrbaugh sold a house in Canfield and moved into another Canfield house around 2014 or 2015. She said Rohrbaugh also sold a Mercedes Benz to the his wife’s uncle, and the money went into the law. company account.
Likewise, she knows that Rohrbaugh received a check for about $50,000 from another person that was not a fee for legal services. She said the amounts totaled about $150,000. “I don’t remember the exact amount,” she said.
The trial will resume today.