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Longtime office assistant testifies in fraud trial

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, Rohrbaugh’s longtime office assistant.

Rohrbaugh, whose offices have been on Belmont Avenue in Liberty for about four years, is charged with conspiracy, aiding and abetting the theft of government property, aiding and abetting a false tax return and filing a false tax return for 2015 that allegedly did not report all of his income.

Baker is on trial in the same matter on conspiracy, aiding and abetting the theft of government property, and aiding and abetting a false tax return.

They are accused of aiding Brandon R. Mace, 43, a Youngstown man with a history of defrauding the government by cashing and using a $1,352,779 IRS check Mace fraudulently obtained while in prison. In a plea agreement, Mace agreed to testify in the trial of Rohrbaugh and Baker.

During opening statements to the jury, prosecutors alleged that Mace filed seven fraudulent income tax returns for nonexistent companies totaling $8.9 million in refunds in 2015, but the IRS rejected six of them. The IRS paid the seventh refund, for a Texas company called Speed Weeks that did not exist and received a $1,352,779 refund.

Mace was sentenced to six years in federal prison in 2013 for claiming false income tax refunds totaling nearly $5.5 million, according to a 2013 U.S. Attorney news release.

ASSISTANT’S TESTIMONY

McCollum testified Monday that she has 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 she 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 viewed it as “Brandon was being Brandon again” and agreed under questioning by assistant U.S. Attorney Erica Barnhill that Mace was a “career criminal” who repeatedly had been involved in financial fraud.

She remembers that Baker was involved in the Mace refund check but thinks Baker only came to the law office one time. She said she believed Rohrbaugh got money from the refund check.

She said she believed the refund check was fake until she learned that the Boardman KeyBank branch cashed it. McCollum took care of the financial transactions for Rohrbaugh’s business. She said she remembered having conversations with an employee at the bank branch where the refund check was deposited.

There was a period of waiting to see whether the check would clear, she said.

Then one day the bank employee told McCollum, “‘You’re not going to believe this.’ She said the check cleared,” McCollum testified. When McCollum told Rohrbaugh, “I think he was just as shocked as (the bank employee) was,” McCollum said.

DOCUMENTS

Barnhill projected lots of checks, bank receipts and legal documents onto a screen visible to the jurors and parties in the case being held in the courtroom of Judge Benita Y. Pearson.

Among the documents was a July 2015 deposit slip for $47,000 that went Rohrbaugh’s account and $3,000 he took in cash, a $50,000 deposit Aug. 4, 2015, that McCollum took to the bank and another $50,000 deposit. Baker was the person who issued checks, McCollum testified.

McCollum also answered questions about who handled the information used to file Rohrbaugh’s business income taxes, saying she would provide Rohrbaugh’s accountant with the 12 bank statements. She said the accountant dealt mostly with Rohrbaugh.

She did not fill out or sign tax forms for the business or “police what Mr. Rohrbaugh gave to” the accountant for tax purposes, she agreed.

Under cross examination by Samuel Amendolara, Rohrbaugh’s attorney, McCollum testified that Rohrbaugh sold one home in Canfield and moved into another Canfield home about 2014 or 2015. She said Rohrbaugh also sold a Mercedes Benz to his wife’s uncle, and the money went into the law firm’s account.

Likewise, she’s aware that Rohrbaugh got a check of about $50,000 from another person that was not a fee for legal services. She said altogether the amounts totaled about $150,000. “I don’t remember the exact amount,” she said.

The trial will resume today.

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