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Gwinnett couple gets prison for tax fraud

Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013

By Christopher Seward

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A Lawrenceville couple who stopped filing federal tax returns in the 1990s, claiming they were not subject to U.S. tax laws, will spend the next four to five years in a U.S. prison for tax fraud.

A federal judge sentenced Stephen Paul Thomas, 46, to five years and Patricia Denese Anderson, 51, to four years and three months for their parts in the tax-defiance scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta said Thursday.

Both were convicted in October of conspiring to defraud the government and making false claims to the IRS. U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell also fined each of them $10,000.

Prosecutors said the couple owned a Duluth outdoor yard furnishing store and general contracting business when they stopped filing federal income tax returns and hired American Rights Litigators to help them fight the IRS.

In 2010, American Rights Litigators’ founder, Eddie Ray Kahn, was convicted of conspiracy in federal court and sentenced to 20 years for pitching schemes designed to help more than 4,800 paying clients avoid paying taxes. Kahn’s clients included actor Wesley Snipes, who also is in federal prison after his tax evasion conviction. Kahn was sentenced as a co-defendant in Snipes’ 2008 case and sentenced to 10 years.

Even after the IRS shut down American Rights Litigators, prosecutors said the Gwinnett County couple continued to argue that they were not U.S. citizens but “American citizens” and were not subject to federal income tax laws. They also flooded the IRS with bogus documents. One of the documents was a “$100 billion bond” the couple directed the agency to use to settle any debts.

“For over a decade, Thomas and Anderson waged a campaign of obstruction against the IRS, culminating in filing false tax returns claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars in false refunds,” U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a release. “They cheated not only the government, but their fellow taxpayers.”

Prosecutors said the couple used fictitious tax identification numbers for business bank accounts to hide funds from the IRS and insisted that paying taxes was voluntary.

Veronica Hyman-Pilot, an acting special agent in charge in the IRS’ criminal investigation unit, addressed the “voluntary” argument.

“The term voluntary compliance means that each of us are responsible for filing a tax return when required and for paying the correct amount of tax,” Hyman-Pilot said.