PENSACOLA, Fla. – A Dutch citizen and resident of Canada pleaded guilty Friday to several tax and mortgage fraud charges, following an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Criminal Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI.
Rudolf Straat, 49, of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, pleaded guilty to mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States, failure to file a tax return and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In March, a federal grand jury in Tallahassee, Fla., returned an eight-count indictment against Straat and his wife and co-conspirator, Maria Gudelis, 45, of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Both were accused of falsely obtaining mortgage loans in excess of $8.8 million to purchase homes in Sandestin, Fla. Straat claimed he was a U.S. citizen, but he is a citizen of the Netherlands. He claimed that he was single, even though he married Gudelis in May 2000. He also misrepresented his employment status.
Additionally, Straat and Gudelis both lived in Sandestin from at least October 2005 through July 2007. While living in Sandestin, Straat did not file 2005 and 2006 income tax returns. As a result, he failed to report more than $1 million to the IRS during those years. Straat used a portion of his unreported capital gains to fraudulently obtain additional properties.
Straat faces up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering and mail fraud. He faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States and up to one year in prison for failing to file tax returns. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 12.
Gudelis, a Canadian citizen, is charged with the same crimes included in the indictment against her husband. She turned herself in to authorities Thursday and pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Friday. Her trial is scheduled to commence Feb. 4.