New Details in Legislator's Fraud Scheme
By: Crystal Britt
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- Heartland News has learned more details about the fraud scheme orchestrated by 33-year-old State Representative Nathan Cooper.
The Cape Girardeau lawmaker and attorney admitted in court Thursday of evading the law to bring foreign workers into the United States.
As of late Friday afternoon, the House speaker's office said Nathan Cooper has not resigned.
Until he is sentenced in October, he still represents the 158th district.
Governor Matt Blunt says he's working with local leaders to set a time for a special election to replace Cooper.
"I know people in Cape Girardeau are shocked and disappointed as am I," Blunt said. "It's the appropriate thing to do, the necessary thing to do, the right thing to do. (I'm) very disappointed with the very serious misconduct that's occurred," said Governor Blunt.
As new details continue to surface, more questions are raised. How did Nathan Cooper carry out his scheme and who else might have known?
Cooper specialized in immigration law. He had clients who owned trucking companies, like Pullen Brothers of Sikeston.
According to court documents, the businesses were short on qualified drivers so Cooper created phony companies to get visas for drivers.
One of them, Retail Trucking LLC, was a fake shop listed at 2613 Themis in Cape Girardeau. It's actually a duplex owned by Nathan Cooper.
"It's amazing because it seemed like such a quiet neighborhood," said Stephanie Lagrone, Cooper's neighbor.
She said she noticed suspicious activity next door. She described seeing a man not fitting Cooper's description coming and going.
"He comes and he never uses the front door, never uses the front door. And maybe he checks the mail when I'm not here, but he just primarily goes through the garage and enters and exits through the garage," Lagrone said.
The other fake business, Speedy Express LLC, turned out to be Cooper's law office on William Street.
In 2004 and 2005 alone, Cooper took in at least $50,000 in legal fees from clients in the trucking business. He'll now forfeit those proceeds.
Cooper pleaded guilty to one felony count of visa fraud and one felony count of making a false statement to the Department of Labor Thursday. His sentencing is set for October 19th.