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Filmmaker Pleads Guilty to Iowa Fraud Charge in Tax Scandal

Wendy Weiner Runge says Iowa official directed her to make false statements

Filmmaker Wendy Weiner Runge pleaded guilty to a felony fraud charge in Iowa, the Des Moines Register reports.

Runge told District Judge Douglas Staskal that she made false statements to procure state tax credits for two unfinished projects, "Forever" and "Run." She said she was "directed to do so by Tom Wheeler," head of the Iowa Film Office.

The guilty plea Wednesday came after attorneys on both sides rested their cases in her trial in Polk County District Court.

Calls to the Iowa Attorney General's office were not immediately returned. 

Under her plea deal with prosecutors, Runge, 45, will likely face less prison time than she could have received if convicted on five counts brought by Iowa's attorney general. She could have faced up to 65 years in prison, the Register said.

Runge sought the tax credits before Iowa suspended its film program in late 2009. The fraudulent practices charge did not apply to "The Scientist," the 2008 film that received $1.85 million in state tax credits. Although Runge's accounting practices were the subject of investigative pieces in the Register. 

Last summer, Runge told TheWrap that she believed that she was being targeted by the Attorney General's office because of her Orthodox Jewish faith. 

The plea was the third connected to a tax scandal that led to the firings or resignations of six state economic development managers.

Iowa suspended its tax incentive program last fall, after the 50 percent production tax credit for films shot in the state had cost the state nearly $150 million.

Brent Lang contributed to this report.