Country singer sent to prison for fraud

2012-10-04T17:20:00Z 2014-08-25T08:00:21Z Country singer sent to prison for fraudBy CLAIR JOHNSON cjohnson@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

As Billings resident Mitchell John Romersa chased his dream of becoming a country singer, he turned the life of one his supporters into a nightmare.

On Wednesday, Anne Kero, an elderly Bozeman woman whom Romersa left financially ruined, watched as Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sentenced Romersa to four years in prison for wire fraud and money-laundering convictions.

Cebull followed the prosecutor’s recommendation and sentenced Romersa, 51, to seven months longer than the guideline range. Restitution will be determined later. The judge dismissed five other counts.

Cebull said Romersa used “serial filings” in bankruptcy court to try to avoid paying creditors. Romersa would not list all of his creditors, including Kero in one of his filings, so they would not be notified of his bankruptcy, he said. The bankruptcies would be dismissed when Romersa failed to make payments.

In 2009, when Kero, who formerly lived in the Billings area, became homeless from a Romersa-related foreclosure, Romersa was still living in a 3,200-square-foot house on 10 acres, driving nice vehicles and giving Kero “false promises,” Cebull said.

“I’m just glad it’s over,” Kero said after the hearing. Romersa got what he deserved, she said.

Shackled and in jail clothes, Romersa turned to Kero and apologized. He promised to pay her back.

“I hope I can make it right. I’ll give it everything I have. If it takes me the rest of my life, I hope you’ll know I’m working on it,” Romersa said. “I’m sincere in the repayment of this.”

Romersa tried to make it big as a country singer, promoting himself as “Mitchell John” and selling CDs on bus tours and at Wal-Mart stores across the Northwest. He performed at the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings in 2005.

Assistant Federal Defender Dave Merchant recommended a sentence within the guideline range of 33 months to 41 months. Romersa took responsibility and was remorseful, he said.

Kero, 74, testified at the hearing that she trusted Romersa, whom she had met through her late husband. “I was his surrogate grandma. He was short of money” as he tried to launch his singing career, she said.

Kero started lending Romersa money in 2003. By the time Romersa’s scheme imploded in 2008, Kero had given him more than $697,000, including money from refinancing her home, which she lost to foreclosure, and from cashing out annuities.

Romersa paid back $51,224, leaving $645,776 still owed to Kero, not including interest, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Victoria Francis.

“He kept saying it was coming, the check is coming. I would be paid back in full, with interest, for everything,” Kero told the judge.

Romersa scammed others as well, Kero said, using the money to live a lifestyle he thought he deserved.

Kero said she was too embarrassed to tell anyone what was happening but finally called her brother when she had to leave her house because of the foreclosure. She ultimately contacted law enforcement.

Kero knew nothing about Romersa’s four bankruptcy filings in Oregon and three filings in Montana. “Yes, it would have made me wonder,” she said.

Romersa’s convictions are from a $220,000 loan Romersa persuaded Kero to get in 2007 from First National Bank and Trust in Powell, Wyo. The bank, with Kero’s permission, used $100,000 to pay Romersa’s past debts. The remaining $120,000 of the business loan was transferred into Kero’s account in Yellowstone Bank in Laurel. Romersa then spent the money on personal expenses using cashier’s checks, including a $33,356 check to pay his mortgage.

Another of Romersa’s victims, Tami Folkerts, who worked as Romersa’s office manager in Billings, told the judge that Romersa wrote her bad checks, including paying a $4,000 medical bill for her with a bad check, and that it would take years to restore her credit. Romersa’s sentence wasn’t long enough, she said.

Folkerts carried a three-ring binder she called her “Book of Lies on Mitchell John Romersa,” which was filled with correspondence from him. Folkerts said she went to the city and county for help. “Nobody would help me,” she said. Federal investigators came to her, she said.

The case was investigated by the Secret Service and the IRS’s Criminal Investigation unit.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More from the Gazette

Lame Deer man admits child sex abuse

Lame Deer man admits child sex abuse

January 30, 2015 11:44 amLoading…
Man denies rape of girl in hotel room

Man denies rape of girl in hotel room

January 29, 2015 4:12 pmLoading…
Pryor man admits sexually abusing child

Pryor man admits sexually abusing child

January 29, 2015 3:47 pmLoading…
Man pleads guilty to assaulting toddler in 2009

Man pleads guilty to assaulting toddler in 2009

January 29, 2015 1:31 pmLoading…
Man pleads guilty in pistol assault

Man pleads guilty in pistol assault

January 29, 2015 11:42 amLoading…
Man charged with punching, head-butting brother

Man charged with punching, head-butting brother

January 28, 2015 7:00 pmLoading…
Man charged with assaulting wife

Man charged with assaulting wife

January 28, 2015 3:05 pmLoading…
Man sentenced to prison for BB gun assaults, theft

Man sentenced to prison for BB gun assaults, theft

January 28, 2015 6:00 am Photos

Photos

Loading…
Man sentenced in 4th domestic assault case

Man sentenced in 4th domestic assault case

January 28, 2015 6:00 amLoading…

Follow The Billings Gazette

Most Wanted

Most Wanted

Most Wanted

Wanted by United States Marshals Service Montana Violent Offender Task Force

January 19, 2015 12:00 amLoading…

Most wanted

Most wanted

Name: Christopher Knight

January 05, 2015 12:00 amLoading…

Crime Watch Map

Keep tabs on crime around the city. View Map

Billings Police Report

2013 Billings Police Department Annual Report. View Report

National crime statistics

Database: FBI hate crime statistics

Database: FBI hate crime statistics

Approximately 6,000 hate crimes motivated by gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability were reported to the FBI in 2013.

Database: US college and university crime statistics

Database: US college and university crime statistics

Compare how U.S. colleges and universities rank for various crimes reported to campus or local authorities in 2013.

Database: US homicide victims by age, gender and ethnicity

Database: US homicide victims by age, gender and ethnicity

View homicide statistics for 2013 based on age group, gender and ethnicity. Data is compiled annually by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UC…

Popular Stories

Get weekly ads via e-mail

Deals & Offers

Featured Businesses