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Whitefish interior designer sentenced for defrauding customers

by DERRICK PERKINS
Hagadone News Network | March 19, 2024 12:00 AM

A federal judge sentenced a Whitefish-based interior designer accused of defrauding her customers to the tune of about $900,000 to a yearslong prison stint in Missoula on Thursday.

Jennifer Michele Helm, 45, was given four years and three months on March 14 after pleading guilty to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in November. She must also undergo three years of supervised release following her time behind bars. 

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, who presided over the case, ordered Helm to pay $933,679 in restitution. 

Prosecutors alleged that Helm began defrauding customers in 2016 through her businesses, Sage Interior Design LLC, Interior Design Service and Jennifer Michele LLC. As part of her scam, Helm allegedly invoiced customers for items she never ordered.

She also convinced a married couple to turn over their credit card information so she could make purchases on their behalf, court documents said. She instead allegedly used the access to funnel money into her bank account.

Investigators with the FBI interviewed Helm in 2021, officials said. Prosecutors alleged that she defrauded four more customers following that meeting when she should have known that she was the target of a federal criminal investigation. 

Her scam netted 20 victims, according to court documents. Several stepped forward after Helm pleaded guilty. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Racicot prosecuted the case. Helm is being held in the Missoula County Detention Center.

News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or dperkins@dailyinterlake.com.