Vancouver couple sentenced for fraud scheme




A Vancouver couple was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to nearly three years in prison for a wire and mail fraud scheme they used to net $845,000.

Darcy Start, 45, and Alyson Start, 34, were sentenced to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, according to a bulletin issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Because the Starts have four young children, they will serve their terms consecutively, with Alyson Start being incarcerated first.

The Starts were indicted in April 2009 and pleaded guilty in March.

U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle told the couple at sentencing he was “astounded” they were “so willing to defraud and deceive others.”

The Starts promised they could help more than 20 different clients obtained financing for their small or startup business. They took fees they said they would return if they failed to obtain financing, yet never did. The loss amount is estimated at more than $845,000.

As Assistant United States Attorney Aravind Swaminathan described in his sentencing memo, “For approximately three years, defendants Alyson and Darcy Start preyed upon the hopes and dreams of their victims, many of whom were seeking loans to build or complete projects that would have created jobs and helped their communities. But in the process, the Starts repeatedly lied to their victims, falsely represented their ability to secure funding for their victims’ projects, and defrauded victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The couple executed what’s called an “advance scheme” under sham companies, including Advanced Lending Solutions and Imperial Acquisition and Holdings. Inc. They used the fees they collected to pay for private school tuition for their children, travel and numerous gambling junkets. Between April 2007 and November 2008, the Starts made more than 65 trips to casinos in Las Vegas, Reno and throughout Washington.

The Starts peppered their communications to some of their victims with Bible verses “to make themselves appear honest and forthright,” the news release said.