05 / 28 / 13

Failing to File Income Taxes= 8 months in Jail!

Former Denham Springs resident Roderick Dewitt Aguillard III was sentenced Wednesday in Baton Rouge to eight months in federal prison after admitting that he did not file income tax returns on $2.3 million he earned over a four-year-period.

Failure to file a federal income tax return is a misdemeanor crime that is punishable by no more than one year in prison.

Aguillard, 42, now lives and works in Atlanta, Ga. He pleaded guilty to one count of failure to file a federal income tax return for 2007. He admitted in court records that he also did not file federal income tax returns for 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rene I. Salomon told Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson that Aguillard has never paid $312,200 in taxes due on the $2.3 million he earned in wages and from the sale of his ownership interest in a private company over that four-year period.

Aguillard has been aware for years of his tax obligations to the federal government, Salomon said, but "efforts to recover those funds have been exhausted."

Aguillard did not address the judge.

Rhett Paul Spano, Aguillard's attorney, told Jackson his client is "a hard worker and supports his family."

In signed admissions filed in federal court, Aguillard agreed that he did not file tax returns for the four years mentioned in his criminal case and that he "has failed to file tax returns since 2003."

Aguillard also agreed in those admissions "that he simply ignored the multiple notices and attempts to garner his compliance with tax laws."

According to documents Aguillard signed with both his attorney and the prosecutor, his "excuse for failing to file his tax returns in 2006 and 2007 was that he got divorced in 2005, claimed to not have documents, and became overwhelmed because his tax problems had become 'too large to deal with.' He also alleged that his ex-spouse kept important documents from him. Aguillard's ex-wife denies the allegation of withholding important tax records."

Jackson, the judge, told Aguillard: "It is a privilege to live and work in the United States."

The judge ordered Aguillard to report to federal prison by 2 p.m. June 24 to begin serving his eight-month term of incarceration. Jackson also ordered Aguillard to serve a post-prison term of one year under the supervision of federal investigators. And the judge ordered Aguillard to pay restitution of $312,200 to the Internal Revenue Service.

Criminal defense attorney Michael S. Walsh, who is president of the Baton Rouge Bar Association as well as chairman of the criminal law section of the Louisiana State Bar Association, confirmed that one year in prison is the maximum term that can be imposed on a person who fails to file a federal income tax return.

To obtain a conviction in such cases, Walsh said, there must be a substantial amount of taxes involved. The defendant must fail to pay those taxes, and that failure must be willful.

U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said the felony crime of tax evasion is punishable by as many as five years in federal prison. But Cazayoux noted that more than a failure to file a federal tax return is needed to prosecute a defendant for tax evasion.

The deliberate filing of a false tax return can result in a charge of tax evasion, Cazayoux explained. Concealment of income, keeping double and differing sets of financial records and destruction of financial records also can trigger prosecution for tax evasion, the prosecutor added.

In Aguillard's case, Cazayoux said he hopes the eight-month prison term "will send a message to anyone thinking of not paying their taxes. They will be held accountable."

This story was modified on May 24, 2013, because Rhett Paul Spano, the attorney for Roderick Dewitt Aguillard III, was misquoted as saying his client has bipolar disorder. Spano had said Aguillard's minor son has the disorder, not Aguillard. The Advocate regrets the error.


** Article is from The Advocate- May 23rd by Bill Lodge