Latest trial opens in film tax scandal

The program was shut down in 2009 after millions of dollars' worth of tax credits were awarded improperly

DES MOINES — Defense attorneys and state prosecutors spent Monday interviewing prospective Polk County jurors in the trial of a Bettendorf accountant charged in connection with the ill-fated state tax credit program aimed at building Iowa’s film industry

Chad Witter, 39, was the primary accountant for the Changing Horses Productions film company and a tax credit broker for several film projects. He’s charged with five felonies — two counts each of first-degree theft and first-degree fraudulent practice, and one count of ongoing criminal conduct. District Judge Scott Rosenberg expected the trial would take about two weeks.

Prosecutors claim Witter knowingly made false statements and engaged in fraudulent practices while procuring economic development assistance for various projects.

Changing Horses produced television shows and DVDs, including “Saddle Up with Dennis Brouse,” related to horse training. According to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, the company applied for and received expenditure and investment tax certificates for five projects between March 2008 and September 2009. An audit found more than $9 million worth of excess credit certificates were issued for those projects.

A Polk County jury has convicted Brouse, the primary producer and lead on-screen talent for the productions, of first-degree fraudulent practices, a felony, for fraudulently securing tax credits. Rosenberg sentenced the Nebraska film and video producer on May 31 to 10 years in prison. He was the seventh person convicted in the case.

The film program was shut down in 2009 after an audit showed millions of dollars’ worth of tax credits were awarded improperly.

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