Frum Filmmaker Wendy Runge Sentenced to Ten Years in Prison


rungeWendy Weiner Runge (Zeva Rochel bas Chaya), whose story has been covered here on, was sentenced yesterday to a 10-year sentence in Mitchellville women’s prison. The Minnesota filmmaker, a 46-year-old mother of four, has written on this website and elsewhere about how she was ensnared in Iowa’s long-running film tax-incentive debacle.

Judge Douglas Staskal criticized the head of Polynation Pictures before sentencing Wendy.

He said the sentence was a difficult decision to make for a woman with no prior criminal history, but claimed he could not ignore the “complete arrogant and defiant” way in which she had denied responsility for her crime.

“This is a case in my judgment that calls out for the court to send a message to you and others who would engage in this kind of behavior that it’s not accepted,” Staskal said.

The week-and-a-half-long trial was sheld in February.

Wendy wept quietly Tuesday in a corner of the second-floor courtroom before being ushered out by her attorney, Matthew Whitaker.

Whitaker said he had not decided whether to appeal, adding: “We are still weighing our options.”

Runge, an Omaha native, decided to accept a plea agreement proferred by prosecutors after both sides rested in her February trial. The first-degree fraudulent practices charge to which she pleaded guilty did not apply to “The Scientist,” a 2008 film that received $1.85 million in state tax credits.

Rather, she admitted she made false statements to procure tax credits for two uncompleted movies called “Forever” and “Run” before Iowa’s film program was suspended in late 2009.

Runge has repeatedly denied doing anything criminal and professed to be a victim of malicious prosecution and misconduct by state officials.

The case  engulfed the fledgling film incentive program a year and a half ago, leading to the firings or resignations of six state economic development managers. Two of Wendy’s former partners who were more cooperative with prosecutors received much lighter sentences Tuesday before Staskal.

Matthias Saunders, a pivotal player in Polynation’s deals with the state, received an up to 10-year suspended sentence for first-degree theft and two years probation, meaning he will stay out of prison if he complies with the terms of his release.

Saunders, 39, who has been living in Georgia, ran a company called Maximux Production Services, and profited from services his company provided that prosecutors said were highly inflated or didn’t exist.

Chase Brandau, 26, also of Minnesota, received a deferred sentencing for second-degree theft. He will be able to wipe the felony from his record if he successfully completes to two years of probation. All three will have to pay restitution to the state, the amounts of which have not yet been determined.

Please continue to daven and say Tehillim for Zeva Rochel bas Chaya.

{Des Moines Register/}


  1. Thank you matzav for getting rid of this evil new minhag of not printing picture of women. Its nice to know I count in your book. You have gained a lifelong loyal reader.
    KoL hakovod

  2. Anyone understand exactly what happened here? What exactly are they saying she did wrong? or is this another blood libel in Iowa?

  3. Ten years?!

    We have all types of charlatans walking around or getting out with 24 months and theis judge has the nerve?!

  4. Those not famiar with the case should not comment.

    There waS BLATANT anti semitism. This whole case was built up and the prosecutors know it.

    At least one website (this one) had the courage to report on this story truthfully.

  5. thanks matzav for keeping us up to date on this and other sucvh stories

    we have to be reminded that we live in golus. We are all possible of geeting far chapt in sucha thing.

    we need moshiach.

  6. After WWII, hundreds maybe thousands of Nazi war criminals were given sanctuary in the USA as part of Operation Paper Clip. A large number were settled in Iowa. It would seem that their children have become the police, prosecutors and judges of Iowa.

    Aryeh Zelasko
    Beit Shemesh

  7. Shia (#3) writes: “We see yet again there is no justice in america.”

    Where do you see that? And if you do see anything like this, why don’t you pack and go to the old country your parents or grandparents came from (Romania, Poland, Russia), or even better go to Dubai. There is no income tax in Dubai.

  8. I thought the plea agreement would spare her prison time. Hashem Yeracheim!

    However, there is absolutely no need to put up her picture. Please take it down.

  9. Unfortunatly, we see from this & the Rubashkin case, Antisemitism is alive and well in the Heartland of America! One can not rely on any sleazy selfish corrupt politician to help out! HKB”H should help her and her family through this challenge.

  10. with all the money in Hollywood, why would a film need tax credits. It sounds almost as dumb as giving the billionaire gas companies tax credits.
    (unless it is a educational film)

  11. All of the charges were dropped except for one.
    Although I am no expert, it seems that Runge has gotten far more than anyone else invoved. Even without the plea bargain, she might not have gotten the maximum sentence. The plea bargain usually will usually reduce that also.
    That being said, I can not say for sure that this anti-semitism, but what I can say with certainty is, like Rubashkin, Pollard, and probably others, she had gotten far more than others in similar situations.
    Furthermore, all the speculation aside, even if she had done as charged, and done so purposely, trying to make a quick buck on the deal, which I don’t believe, does she deserve a longer sentence than the average drunk driver who endangers everyone around him? Or the the murderer? Or the abuser?
    Our criminal justice system, is injust and skewed!

  12. Take down this picture? David, Bubbeleh, if you can’t handle a picture of an isha tznua, please get off the internet!

  13. The Judge is an anti-semite. It was clear throughout the case.

    She would have gotten a better deal if she never accepted the plea deal.

  14. Attention Bubbie maybe learn the laws that its assur to gaze even bietzba shel eesha,before giving muusar

    kudos to matzav for usually being careful about this

  15. I’d love to know what the real story is with this, because all the information so far is pretty skewed. But and since it appears that Anti semitisim played a role in this and so it is, alive and well in this country, and being that there are nazis that fled germany and their offsprings are now prosecuting our brethren to the harshest sentences imaginable for the simple reason that their jewish, i think a full fledged investigation should be launched, and the evil Mrs Reide that hurt a precious yid-rabbi rubashkin should be under a full fledged investigation, and if her ancestory played a part in this then it should be investigated and her ancestors should be thrown into a german prison for life, and mrs reide should be made redundant at once.

  16. To dovid 2

    You sound like Helen Thomas who told Jews to go back to Poland. What exactly did you have in mind, Oshpitzin?

  17. When will you all wake up! These tzoros of the US Courts sentencing frum Jews to jail are supposed to be wake-up calls to us!

    We as Bnai Yisrael are not using or obeying our Torah Justice System, Baatei Din, and are instead using the secular courts against fellow Jews.

    Rubashkin and Runge are kaporos. We need to enforce our own Torah Justice . Then maybe Hashem will take our people out of the clutches of the secular justice system.

  18. We ALL know that if she were an American of another heritage she would have gotten less of a sentence even if she would have killed, sold drugs, and used a weapon.

  19. Maybe this is a message for us. Two frum Jews seem to be treated unjustly. Maybe it is a message for us to fix our Jewish Justice System – our Botei Dinim. Let’s see them start following Halacha – it’s there for a reason!!