Jason P. Unangst persuaded people to invest nearly $3 million in his plan to buy repossessed mobile homes and sell them to hurricane-ravaged areas -- but never purchased so much as a single double-wide.
On Thursday, the Arizona man pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh to transporting property taken by fraud and money laundering.
Mr. Unangst confirmed to U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab that he ran JPU Enterprises Inc., portrayed to investors as a firm that had an inside track with a finance company that was foreclosing on mobile homes.
Internal Revenue Service Special Agent Kevin Petrulak said that Mr. Unangst and collaborators "expressed to investors that they could buy mobile homes for pennies on the dollar," and promised 30 percent to 100 percent returns in just 60 to 180 days.
Mr. Unangst then allowed investors' funds to intermingle with his personal accounts. He lived off of the investor dollars, while repaying a select few investors. The loss to investors is calculated at $1,987,060.
Mr. Unangst confirmed and took responsibility for the entire scheme, outlined in a 14-count indictment. He pleaded guilty to two of the counts.
One of those two counts involved taking a $170,000 check in 2004 from an unidentified man in Wheeling, W.Va.
In the other count, based on a transaction five days later, Mr. Unangst transferred $310,000, derived from victims' investments from his account to that of a man identified in the indictment as "AB," and revealed in the guilty plea hearing to be Art Bedway.
"Art Bedway," said Assistant U.S. Attorney James R. Wilson, at Thursday's hearing, " ... was a confederate of Mr. Unangst's in this scheme, though not charged."
Mr. Bedway is an executive with Carnegie-based Victory Security Agency.
"From what I understand, I'm completely innocent," Mr. Bedway said, before declining further comment.
"I had nothing to do with that. I was a victim, too," he said.
Mr. Unangst, 36, is likely to face 37 to 46 months in prison, according to his attorney, Alan Baum, and Mr. Wilson. He will be allowed to continue living in Arizona, with electronic monitoring, until his July 28 sentencing.
Mr. Unangst was a fugitive following his 2009 indictment. A Post-Gazette article in July, which included a photograph, led to the tip that preceded his arrest in Arizona, said Mr. Petrulak.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1542.