Missoula man gets 8 years in prison, must pay $6.4 million restitution for construction fraud

A Montana man has been sentenced to more than eight years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $6.5 million in restitution for taking millions of dollars in down payments on steel buildings he never completed.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy sentenced Jonathan Lee Oliver, of Missoula, on Tuesday to 100 months in prison.

Oliver, 41, pleaded guilty in February to wire fraud, money laundering and structuring, which is intentionally making cash transactions in amounts less than the $10,000 level at which a federal report must be filed.

Charging documents said Oliver solicited prepayments of nearly $7.9 million for steel buildings — mostly from residents of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota — between October 2010 and December 2011, but he only completed one building.

Prosecutors alleged Oliver used some of the money to buy a house, three new vehicles, a motorhome, an engagement ring and other items.

Molloy ordered Oliver's sentence to run consecutive to any state sentences imposed in New Hampshire or Oregon.

Oliver was being sought for violating his probation in an Oregon case when he was arrested Dec. 21, 2011, after a brief chase in North Dakota. The next day, North Dakota's attorney general issued a cease-and-desist order against Oliver's company, Western Steel Structures Inc., for violations of North Dakota's consumer fraud law.

Western Steel Structures had addresses in Missoula and in Salem, Oregon. The cease-and-desist order alleged Oliver filed for a contractor's license in North Dakota using a false name and failed to disclose his criminal history. It also said he received at least $1.4 million in down payments on steel buildings but in most cases provided none of the materials and did no work.

In June 2007, Oliver was convicted of two counts of first-degree aggravated theft in Oregon for taking $34,000 from a couple and failing to build an outdoor horse arena. He was sentenced to 13 months in jail, ordered to pay $26,000 in restitution and prohibited from working as a contractor for two years after his release.

In 2000 in New Hampshire, Oliver was found to have accepted $625,000 in prepayments for home heating oil that he failed to deliver to more than 1,000 customers. The violations were not a criminal offense so no jail time was ordered, but he was ordered to pay restitution. Oliver filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Oregon four years later, court records said.