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3 ex-salesmen plead guilty in RV tax scheme

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Three former recreational vehicle salesmen have pleaded guilty to federal charges that they helped out-of-state RV buyers evade property taxes in seven states, including Utah, by illegally registering their motor homes in Oregon.

The case involves 17 RVs, worth $2.68 million, which were sold in seven states: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Utah and Washington.According to court papers, those states were improperly deprived of between $160,000 and $320,000 in sales taxes and registration fees. However, because those states have different tax and fee rates, the loss could exceed $400,000, said Chris Cardani, assistant U.S. attorney.

Lloyd Eugene Odland, 61, and his brother, Jan Odland, 60, each pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Kenneth Cooper, 47, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.

All three men were salesman for the Guaranty RV dealership in Junction City, which bills itself as the nation's largest RV dealer.

The Junction City dealership, about 17 miles northwest of Eugene, has cooperated with the investigation and continues to do so, said Pat Horton, Guaranty's at-tor-ney.

"Their conduct was individual in nature," Horton said.

Guaranty also fired other employees as a result of the internal investigation, he said.

Most states require residents who buy vehicles elsewhere to register them in their home state and pay in-state taxes. Oregon, with no sales tax, long has been a magnet for people in neighboring states who want to buy RVs, cars or other high-priced items.

Allegations that Guaranty salespeople were providing fake Oregon addresses to RV buyers from other states first surfaced publicly last August, when a Southern California couple sued Guaranty in Lane County.

However, Cardani said the FBI and U.S. Postal Service had been investigating the scheme since December 1996.

The men are to be sentenced June 9. Each faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, each has agreed to help the federal government in exchange for recommending a lighter sentence.