Missouri man sentenced in fraud case that bilked Igiugig out of nearly $250,000

Sep 22, 2021

A 53-year-old Missouri man was sentenced in federal court Friday, after he pleaded guilty to tax evasion and admitted to engaging in a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud customers, including the Village of Igiugig.

Igiugig's barge landing. March 2019.
Credit Izzy Ross/KDLG

In 2015, the Village of Igiugig paid Michael Dismer to build a tugboat.

The village had received a federal economic development grant for the vessel, and hired Lakeland Marine Builders, the company owned by Dismer, to construct it. The Igiugig Tribal Council would go on to pay a total of $242,375 for the boat.

But Igiugig never received a vessel.

According to a news release Friday from the Department of Justice, the village was one of 22 customers defrauded by Dismer between 2013 and 2018.

Last April, Dismer admitted to the fraud and pleaded guilty to tax evasion.

The Justice Department says that to avoid taxes, Dismer stopped operating under business names that owed taxes, and continued to make money through newly created businesses. Since 1993, he operated at least eight different businesses that built a range of vessels.

In December 2015, the Village of Igiugig paid Dismer $96,0000. Dismer immediately used $70,000 of that money to purchase a construction facility in Stockton, MO. He then transferred the title of that property to another company, Cardgames on Motorcycles, Inc., in which the sole shareholder was a 21-year-old — an effort to keep the real estate beyond the reach of the IRS and other creditors.

In all, Dismer received more than $4 million from customers for the construction of vessels, but he never fully delivered on his promises, instead spending much of the money on personal expenses.

He claimed that construction was on schedule and provided misleading documentation, like photographs, to his customers to convince them to make the next payments.

Fourteen of them received vessels the Justice Department called “incomplete, inoperable, or unseaworthy," after they paid Dismer more than $2.9 million. At least seven customers paid a total of more than $1.3 million but saw no vessels at all.

Dismer did not file business or personal income tax returns for 2009 through 2017. To evade paying taxes, he used 28 different bank accounts at six banks and transferred funds between those accounts. Between 1996 and 2007, he also collected payroll tax from his employees but withheld $430,000 of federal income and payroll taxes from the government.

A federal judge sentenced Dismer Friday to five years in federal prison without parole for failing to pay more than $768,000 in state and federal taxes, which he now has to repay.

The court also ordered him to pay $4.3 million in restitution to the fraud victims.

As part of his plea agreement, Dismer had to sell the property he bought with Igiugig’s money and liquidate all other assets.

Contact the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

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