California filmmaker pleads guilty in Iowa tax credit fraud case

DES MOINES — A California film producer who is currently serving federal prison time for fraud convictions pleaded guilty in Polk County District Court Tuesday to state charges of fraud, forgery, and conspiracy to commit forgery in connection with Iowa’s ill-fated film tax credit program.

Harel Goldstein, 50, of Calabasas, Calif., admitted in court Tuesday that he used the alias “Harel Gold” while contracting with the state of Iowa.He said he wanted to hide the fact that he already had pleaded guilty to federal bank fraud for forgeries related to film financing.

In his guilty plea, Goldstein — who produced the film “Underground” in Newton in 2009—said that former Iowa Film Office Manager Tom Wheeler was aware of his true name and history, but Goldstein said Wheeler allowed him to sign contracts as “Harel Gold.”

A Polk County jury found Wheeler not guilty last year of any criminal wrongdoing in his dealings with Goldstein.Wheeler was, however, convicted on one felony count of misconduct in office and given a deferred judgment, two years of probation and ordered to pay a $750 civil penalty, restitution, and court costs, fees and surcharges.

Prosecutors said during filming of “Underground” in 2009, Goldstein created false invoices and used them to support claims for tax credits.Goldstein will face an estimated year-long extension of his 46-month federal sentence, according to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. He pleaded guilty to all three counts as charged without a plea deal. As a result, Polk County District Judge Karen Romano agreed with recommendations from both parties and sentenced Goldstein to three suspended sentences, including two years of probation, and a $2,500 fine. Goldstein also was ordered to pay the cost of transport to Iowa and back to California.