Phyllis Stevens' attorney earlier unsuccessfully argued to the court that his client was incompetent to stand trial because she was mentally ill with dissociative identity disorder as a result of severe sexual, physical and emotional abuse by her adopted parents as a child. The two could likely spend the rest of their lives in prison unless the judge metes out lenient sentences to them, in addition to $2.5 million in fines. The two are scheduled to be sentenced in January.Phyllis Stevens, 59, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, one count of computer fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, one count of conspiracy to file false documents and income tax returns and one count of filing a false tax return in 2003.As part of the agreement, prosecutors dropped 14 counts against Phyllis Stevens including two counts of aggravated identity theft that carried mandatory two-year prison terms that would have to be imposed consecutively on any prison term she served.
In pleading guilty together on the count of filing false documents and income tax returns, the two women admitted that Phyllis Stevens embezzled about $6 million from 2003 through 2009 and conspired with Marla Stevens to attempt avoiding detection by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service by providing a number of false explanations for the money including a claim that Marla Stevens obtained income from running an insurance business.
Phyllis Stevens faces a maximum prison term of up to 48 years and fines amounting to $1.75 million at sentencing. Under the original 20 count indictment, Phyllis Stevens faced up to 319 years in prison and $5.5 million in fines.
Marla Stevens, 58, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiring to commit money laundering and a count of conspiracy to file false documents and income tax returns.
Marla Stevens now faces a maximum prison term of up to 25 years and fines amounting to $750,000 at sentencing. Under her original five-count indictment, Marla Stevens faced a maximum a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison and $1.2 million in fines, if convicted.
Phyllis and Marla used the money to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Democratic candidates, in addition to purchasing a number of homes in Iowa, Indiana and Florida. At the time of the couple's arrests, Marla had been living at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas for months, spending close to $2 million of the embezzled funds there. Locally, the two were one of U.S. Rep. Andre Carson's largest campaign contributors, making more than $25,000 in contributions to his campaign committee. The couple also donated thousands of dollars to his grandmother, the late U.S. Rep. Julia Carson. Marla had been a frequent blogger on the Bilerico.com blog prior to her arrest. Phyllis had chaired Iowa's Marriage Equality USA organization in addition to working as a financial analyst for Aviva.