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Con man admits swindling elderly aunt

Convicted bank swindler John Earl Petersen is pictured in 1997. (S-R archives)

A convicted con man already due to serve more than two years in federal prison has resolved a three-year-old identity theft case in Spokane County.

John Earl Petersen, 61, was sentenced Wednesday to 13 months in prison for swindling his elderly aunt out of her life savings.

Petersen, the key figure in the collapse of a Montana bank more than a decade ago, will serve the time concurrently with a 27-month federal sentence imposed last month for stealing nearly $170,000 from a brother and sister in 2006 after telling them they would receive $100 million in return.

Federal prosecutors said in 2008 that Petersen used more than $400,000 belonging to his 95-year-old aunt, Gunly Petersen, for personal use, including a lavish remodel at her home in the 1300 block of South Greene Street. He had moved her into a nursing facility and was to be overseeing her health and finances.

It's the latest for an admitted con man and frequent Las Vegas gambler who had a business office in Spokane when he was arrested in 1998, accused of masterminding the $10.5 million collapse of Montana Bank of Whitefish, Mont.

Petersen shocked federal authorities in December 2007 when he walked out of U.S. District Court in Spokane after reviewing paperwork indicating he would be taken into custody at the hearing.

He sped away in his Cadillac and was arrested five months later in Boulder, Colo., with a blond wig and books about changing identity.

Past coverage:

Feb. 1, 1998: Agent paints Petersen as loan-sharking mobster
  

Repeat con artist headed back to prison

Convicted bank swindler John Earl Petersen is pictured in 1997. (S-R archives)

A convicted bank swindler who boldly walked out of a Spokane courtroom three years ago to avoid arrest is headed to federal prison.

John Earl Petersen, the key figure in the collapse of a Montana bank more than a decade ago, was sentenced this morning to 27 months for stealing nearly $170,000 from a brother and sister in 2006 after telling them they would receive $100 million in return.

Petersen was convicted of wire fraud and tax evasion, the latest for an admitted con man and frequent Las Vegas gambler who had a business office in Spokane when he was arrested in 1998, accused of masterminding the $10.5 million collapse of Montana Bank of Whitefish, Mont.

Petersen, 61, admitted to bribing bank officials to allow him to cash phony checks. He served five years in prison after turning in co-conspiring bank officials. He was sent back in 2008 after investigators alleged he was misusing his 95-year-old aunt’s money.

At his parole revocation hearing in 2008, federal prosecutors said Petersen used more than $400,000 of her money for personal use, including a lavish home remodel.

Petersen was arrested on the new federal indictment just as he was to be released from SeaTac federal prison on Dec. 8, 2010.

He also is charged in Spokane County Superior Court with nine counts of felony theft for the alleged scheme against his aunt. Spokane County prosecutors were waiting for Petersen to resolve his federal case, which he did today after pleading guilty last May.

In addition to 27 months in prison, Petersen is to be on probation for three years and pay $167,794.94 restitution.

Petersen shocked federal authorities in December 2007 when he walked out of U.S. District Court in Spokane after reviewing paperwork indicating he would be taken into custody at the hearing.

He sped away in his Cadillac and was arrested five months later in Boulder, Colo., with a blond wig and books about changing identity.

Past coverage:

Feb. 1, 1998: Agent paints Petersen as loan-sharking mobster

Gregoire’s other tax proposals

Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposed half-penny sales tax increase got plenty of attention Monday, but she also rolled out more than $340 million in additional tax plans she wants lawmakers to consider.

Among them are increased business and occupation tax rates on windfall profits earned in the oil and financial industries to a new luxury tax on automobiles with pricetags over $50,000. Gregoire also suggests imposing additional reporting requirements on local building permits to help crack down on tax-evading subcontractors. Most of the proposals would require an almost-impossible-to-achieve two-thirds supermajority in each legislative chamber, but about $59 million in new revenue could be achieved by simple majority because Gregoire contends it would involve fees and slight policy adjustments.

Gregoire submitted an all-cuts spending plan to balance the state's current budget, which is suffering from an estimated $2 billion shortfall that's forcing lawmakers back to Olympia next week for a special session. But she's also hoping the Legislature and taxpayers will agree to ease the deep cuts in in education and other services by increasing taxes.

A look at the sales tax plan is in today's edition of The Spokesman-Review and can be found at the above link or here.

Click here for the full descriptions of the additional tax proposals that Gregoire supplied lawmakers. Here's a summary, including the amount of projected revenue each would raise during the 2013 fiscal year:

Section One involves proposals Gregoire believes could be approved by simple majority of the Legislature.

  • Convert securities reported as unclaimed property immediately upon receipt ($50.6 million).
  • Require local governments that issue building permits to supply subcontractor
    information to the Department of Revenue ($2.6 million).
  • Reduce the time to claim an excise tax refund to four years ($2.1 million).
  • Increase the interest rate on excise tax assessments by 2% to equal the federal shortterm
    rate plus 4% ($1.2 million).
  • Prohibit delinquent taxpayers from renewing liquor licenses ($1 million).
  • Impose a $10 fee per invoice issued to a taxpayer for unpaid taxes such as balance due
    notices, assessments, warrants, etc. ($900,000).
  • Impose a $25 fee for the issuance and renewal of reseller permits ($700,000).

Section Two involves proposals Gregoire believe would require a two-thirds supermajority.

  • Increase business and occupation (B&O) tax rate on oil companies with windfall
    profits ($131 million).
  • Increase B&O tax rate on financial institutions with windfall profits ($53.8 million).
  • Repeal sales tax exemption for purchases made by nonresidents from states with
    a sales tax of less than 3% ($23.4 million).
  • Limit the B&O tax deduction for first mortgage interest to community banks, defined as those with branches in 10 or fewer states ($18.1 million).
  • Impose 5% luxury tax on passenger motor vehicles with pricetags over $50,000 ($14.2 million).
  • Impose 1.5% gross receipts tax on gambling and lottery winnings ($13.1 million).
  • Increase the cigarette tax 25 cents from $3.025 to $3.275 ($12.4 million).
  • Impose public utility taxes (PUT) on developmental disabilities supported living
    services at 5.029% to help leverage more federal money ($11.6 million).
  • Close B&O tax loophole that allows companies to create shell corporations outside
    the state to reduce their Washington tax liability ($3.5 million).
  • Limit B&O tax preferences for meat processors, fruit and vegetable processors (900,000).
  • Close B&O tax loophole that allows out-of-state printers to sell into Washington
    without paying B&O tax (114,000).

Hayden Lake man ordered to file taxes

Here's a news release from the Idaho State Tax Commission:

BOISE — First District Court Judge Benjamin R. Simpson has ordered a Hayden Lake man to file Idaho tax returns for three years in which his reported income totaled more than $335,000, according to the Idaho State Tax Commission.

Judge Simpson issued an order to compel Scott A. Grunsted to file tax returns for 2006 through 2008. Grunsted has until Sept. 30 to comply with the judge’s order.

“Court action is our last resort to get someone to file their tax returns,” said Bob Geddes, chairman of the Tax Commission.  “At this stage, taxpayers have been given every opportunity to comply with the law, and we need to take this extra step to ensure that the system treats everyone fairly.”

Court files show that Grunsted had income of $103,860 for 2006; $111,877 for 2007; and $119,332 for 2008.  

Anyone who is behind in filing Idaho tax returns can learn how to catch up by visiting the Tax Commission’s website at tax.idaho.gov and clicking on “Forgot to File?” in the “Quick Picks” section.

Those who want more information can call Taxpayer Services at (208) 334-7660 in the Boise area or (800) 972-7660 toll free.

Financial experts charged with tax crimes

A Moses Lake couple who runs an financial consulting and insurance brokerage firm have been charged with failing to pay taxes.

J. Scott Vrieling and his wife, Patrica Dionn Vrieling, are each charged with four misdemeanors for allegedly failing to pay taxes from 2004 through 2007.

The charges carry no more than a year in prison, a $100,000 fine and a year of probation.

The Vrielings own Vrieling Financial in Moses Lake. The firm opened in 1949 and provides brokerage and consulting services to businesses and executives.

A grand jury indicted them Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Spokane.

Couple gets prison time for tax evasion

A former Colbert couple, who reportedly has made millions from the sale of porcelain figurines, has been sentenced to federal prison for refusing to pay more than $800,000 in income taxes.

Scott D. and Kristin W. Haynes, both 56, were sentenced late Tuesday after pleading guilty to five counts of failing to file tax returns for the years 1999 through 2003. They were arrested June 22 when they traveled to Florida after living for several years on a tropical island in the Caribbean that is part of Honduras.

Kristin Haynes is the artist and creator of figurines sold nationwide under the “Dreamsicles” trademark. Scott Haynes was a 50 percent shareholder in the corporation, from which the couple earned royalties from the sales of her creations.

Read the rest of the story here.

Marty: So Tax Evasion Builds Character?

Adversity can arm a leader with compassion and empathy. Working at minimum wage can teach politicians about the challenges facing the working poor. Attending college can show them the difficulties today’s students encounter as they pay rising costs. Certainly, living on food stamps would enlighten any politician about how limited public assistance is in the Gem State. But it’s a stretch for Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, to claim his ongoing tax woes make him a better public servant. A third-term lawmaker unopposed in his bid for a fourth, Hart is a former tax protester who serves on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. “I think it makes you a better legislator, to have these life experiences … ” Hart told the Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell. … Sure/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

  • Trillhaase: Every day Denney waits to call an ethics probe is a day too long.

Question: Should House Speaker Lawerence Denney call for an ethics probe into Rep. Phil Hart’s tax problems?

Happy April 15: Man charged with tax evasion

A former North Idaho resident has been charged with federal tax evasion.

Michael George Fitzpatrick is accused of using offshore bank accounts to hide his assets and of failing to file individual income tax returns in 2003 and 2004.

He also allegedly didn’t filed corporate income tax returns in 2004 for the Washington corporation Dynamic Solutions, and a Nevada corporation, NAES.

Both companies claimed to allow people “to completely eliminate their credit card debt and other types of debt,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Fitzpatrick, a former resident of Sandpoint and Hope, as well as Kent, Wash., is charged with two counts of tax evasion and two counts of failure to file a tax return, according to a grand jury indictment filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boise.

Tax evasion carries a maximum of 5 years in prison; failure to file brings a maximum of one year.