Former Grandview mayor pleads guilty to $35,000 fraud scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that the former mayor of Grandview, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court today to a wire fraud scheme in which he used a bogus charity to steal $35,000 in contributions from International House of Prayer, a local nonprofit organization.

Stephen S. Dennis, 50, of Grandview, waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Senior District Judge Howard F. Sachs to a federal information that charges him with the felony offense of wire fraud. Dennis resigned as mayor of Grandview on Jan. 10, 2014.

By pleading guilty today, Dennis admitted that he engaged in a scheme from Dec. 12, 2011, to Nov. 29, 2013, to solicit donations to a corporation called Matters of the Heart. Dennis incorporated Matters of the Heart as a nonprofit corporation under state law, but falsely claimed it was also a federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation. Dennis never applied for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS for Matters of the Heart, even though application instructions were given to him in December 2011 by an attorney from whom he sought legal advice.

According to today’s plea agreement, Dennis received two checks from International House of Prayer Forerunner Christian Fellowship, a nonprofit organization in Grandview, totaling $35,000 in 2012. After obtaining the $35,000, Dennis used these funds for his own personal benefit, including his immediate family’s living expenses, rather than for any charitable purpose.

Matters of the Heart is now dissolved. In the organization’s articles of incorporation, Dennis listed himself as incorporator, registered agent, and one of the three directors of the board. He listed two persons, identified as “B.S.” and “J.M.” as the other two directors.  B.S. and J.M. had no knowledge that they were listed as directors, and at no time gave Dennis permission or authority to claim them as such.  B.S. and J.M. have never served as directors on the Matters of the Heart board of directors.

Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the government will jointly recommend with the defendant a sentence of one year and one day in prison. The court may also order Dennis to pay restitution to International House of Prayer. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Roseann A. Ketchmark. It was investigated by the FBI.

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