KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An Independence, Missouri man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday for two fraud schemes in which he sold unwitting victims rental equipment and real estate that did not belong to him.
Jeremy Ace Woods, 46, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs to 17 years in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Woods to pay $798,021 in restitution to 48 victims and to forfeit to the government $336,150, which represents the proceeds he personally received from the charged conduct in this case.
On Dec. 14, 2022, Woods pleaded guilty to three counts of travel fraud and two counts of wire fraud as part of a rental-equipment scheme and a real estate scheme that victimized at least 48 individuals or businesses.
RENTAL EQUIPMENT FRAUD SCHEME
As part of the rental-equipment scheme, Woods stole approximately 96 pieces of rental equipment valued at approximately $999,077 from 25 separate rental companies. He then sold at least 41 pieces of equipment to at least 15 victim buyers from across the Midwest, including buyers from Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. These victim buyers paid Woods a total of $188,100 for the stolen equipment.
According to court documents, Woods used aliases and lies to enter into sexual relationships with multiple women and employment relationships with multiple men. He exploited these relationships by asking these individuals to rent equipment for him, thus acting as straw renters of the equipment — using their real names and banking information to obtain the equipment. Once the rental equipment was obtained, Woods — again, using various aliases — lined up buyers for the stolen equipment by posting the equipment for sale on Facebook Marketplace or similar websites.
Through this scheme, the unwitting straw renters suffered damage to their credit scores and suffered financial losses; the victim rental companies suffered financial losses; and the victim buyers — many of whom were small business owners — sustained devastating financial losses when the equipment they purchased was ultimately returned to the appropriate rental companies. According to the victim declarations, this fraud had a direct impact on multiple victims’ financial solvency and caused substantial loss of retirement, education, or other savings.
Among the rental equipment cited in court documents as being stolen then sold by Woods is a Boxer skid steer from Home Depot in Olathe, Kansas, a Bobcat skid steer from United Rentals in Olathe, and a Toro Dingo TX 1000 compact utility loader from Colman Equipment in Smithville, Missouri.
As part of the relevant conduct in the scheme, Woods entered into a romantic relationship with a woman with an intellectual disability. Woods exploited this relationship by having the woman buy and rent property for him, including a truck, multiple trailers, and 12 smart phones. Additionally, Woods told the woman they were going to get married, and — based on those lies — used her money to purchase a $3,500 ring for himself.
REAL ESTATE FRAUD SCHEME
As part of the real-estate scheme, Woods fraudulently sold 12 homes he did not own, extracting large down payments and monthly installment payments from unsuspecting victim buyers, from September 2021 to February 2022. The scheme involved total payments, made or intended, of over $1 million.
In this scheme, Woods (through his companies, Ace’s Remediation and Lawn Service or Vaughns Property Management) solicited and received subcontracting jobs for maintenance tasks on homes going through the foreclosure process, many of which were owned by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. Instead of honoring the contracts and performing the agreed-upon work, Woods posed as the owner of a real-estate company and fraudulently sold the homes to unsuspecting victim buyers. According to court documents, Woods used aliases with each victim of this scheme.
Woods elicited large down payments from the victims and had the victims enter fraudulent contracts, requiring them to make monthly installment payments until the homes were paid in full. In total, Woods elicited $183,000 in down payments and monthly installments from various victims. Additionally, the victims also spent approximately $33,777 to remodel the homes, leading to a total actual loss of $216,777.
According to court documents, Woods attempted to victimize two additional individuals, but the fraud was discovered before a down payment was made. According to the victim declarations, this fraud — like the rental-equipment scheme — had a devastating financial impact on numerous lives. This fraud had a direct impact on multiple victims’ solvency; has caused substantial loss of retirement, education, or other savings; has caused substantial changes to employment and/or living arrangements; and has impacted victims’ ability to obtain credit.
Among the residential properties cited in court documents as fraudulently sold by Woods is a residence in Shawnee, Kansas.
$2,229,177 TOTAL LOSSES
The intended loss of the two schemes totaled $2,229,177 while the actual loss of the schemes totaled $900,896.
For the rental-equipment scheme, the intended loss was calculated by adding the value of the stolen rental equipment, $999,077, to the amount the victim buyers paid the defendant, $188,100. The intended loss for the real-estate scheme was calculated by adding the amount paid by the victims for the down payments, home upgrades, and/or monthly installment payments to the total unpaid amount owed under the fraudulent contracts for a total of $1,042,000.
The three counts of travel fraud to which Woods pleaded guilty are related to instances in which he caused his victims to travel across state lines as part of the fraud schemes.
During the schemes, Woods used multiple aliases, including Jeremy Ace, Jeremy Vaughn, Jeremy Brown, James Hanna, and Elvis John.
Woods has 31 prior felony convictions, including several fraud convictions that are relevant conduct in the two schemes in this case. When arrested in this case in May 2022, Woods was on felony probation in four separate cases in four separate Missouri counties and was on misdemeanor probation in Montgomery County, Kansas. Additionally, he has been convicted of 25 misdemeanors and has had his probation or parole revoked 15 times. He also has pending cases in four separate counties, including an active warrant out of Lyon County, Kansas, for escaping from custody.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Heberle.
It was investigated by the FBI; the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General; and the Overland Park, Kansas, Police Department with assistance from the Belton, Missouri, Police Department; the Blue Springs, Missouri, Police Department; the Bonner Springs, Kansas, Police Department; the Cole County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Department; the Columbia, Missouri, Police Department; the Dickinson County, Kansas, Sheriff’s Department; the Harrisonville, Missouri, Police Department; the Hutchinson, Kansas, Police Department; the Independence, Missouri, Police Department; the Independence, Kansas, Police Department; the Johnson County, Kansas, Sheriff’s Department; the Junction City, Kansas, Police Department; the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department; the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department; the Lawrence, Kansas, Police Department; the Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Police Department; the Leavenworth County, Kansas, Sheriff’s Department; the Olathe, Kansas, Police Department; the Parkville, Missouri, Police Department; the Parsons, Kansas, Police Department; the Shawnee, Kansas, Police Department; the Smithville, Missouri, Police Department; and the Topeka, Kansas, Police Department.