Federal prosecutors want Robert Miell's prison inmate account to go toward restitution debt

Former Cedar Rapids landlord Miell is serving 20 years for tax, mail fraud

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Federal prosecutors this week asked a judge to order the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to confiscate more than $3,000 from the inmate account of former landlord Robert Miell, who is serving 20 years for mail and tax fraud, to help pay restitution to victims.

Miell, 63, who at one time was the largest landlord in Cedar Rapids, was convicted by a jury in 2009 of two counts of tax fraud. The charges stem from his fraudulent reports to American Family Insurance of more than $336,000 in storm damage at 145 properties he owned. He also pleaded guilty to 18 counts of mail fraud and two counts of perjury.

In 2010, U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett sentenced Miell to 20 years in prison, calling him the “poster child for every landlord that takes advantage of damage deposits” and told him that he had “absolutely no doubt” he was guilty.

Bennett also ordered him to pay more than $728,000 in victim’s restitution. Miell was required to pay $547,764 to American Family Insurance, $86,554 to victims identified in a damage deposit scheme and $94,080 to the IRS for delinquent taxes.

Bennett said the delinquent tax amount can’t be classified as restitution, so he ordered the repayment as a condition of Miell’s release.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin McLaughlin filed a motion asking the court to direct the prison bureau to turn over all of the $3,363 in Miell’s inmate account to be applied to his balance. Miell still owes $346,444, court documents show.

Miell is at the Federal Medical Center at Rochester, Minn., and isn’t scheduled for release until Oct. 6, 2026.

The motion doesn’t say how Miell racked up that much cash in prison. Many inmates receive money from family or friends and some receive wages from prison jobs.

That amount isn’t unheard of, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Cole, who deals with collection of fines and restitutions.

“But not something our office sees with our debtors more than maybe once or twice a year,” he added.

McLaughlin argued in the motion that a lien against all of Miell’s property and rights to property, including funds held in his inmate account, can be collected under the restitution.

At the time of Miell’s sentencing, he may not have been able to pay his entire debt. But if funds become available later, then the court can adjust the payment schedule or require immediate payment, documents show.

McLaughlin cited exemptions a defendant could claim, but none apply to Miell. The exemptions include clothes and school books, gasoline, furniture, unemployment benefits and pension payments under specified federal laws.

A hearing on the motion hasn’t been set.

In 2010, Judge Bennett had harsh words for Miell, saying he “squeezed” an extra few hundred dollars from renters he thought “were too economically vulnerable or unsophisticated to contest his claims” in a damage deposit scheme.

There were 272 individuals identified as being victims of the scheme. From 2000 through at least 2007, Miell told renters when they were moving out that they caused damage to the property and that he would keep their deposits — or charge more.

Miell produced invoices from a company called “The Home Doctor” to try to prove the costs, but they were fraudulent.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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