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Defendants Promoted Fraudulent Scheme That Citizens Were Not Subject To Income Taxes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Justice Department announced today that five individuals were sentenced in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah for their participation in a fraudulent scheme to obtain refund checks from the Internal Revenue Service.

A jury in Salt Lake City convicted four of the defendants sentenced today in May 2003 on charges of conspiracy and filing false tax returns. The fifth defendant, Merrill Hansen, pled guilty to a false-return count shortly after a grand jury returned the indictment in 1998.

Chief Judge Dee V. Benson sentenced the individuals to various prison terms for their participation in this illegal tax scheme. The four who went to trial last May received the stiffest sentences. Earnest Glenn Ambort, the chief ADL promoter, was sentenced to nine years in prison. John W. Benson received a sentence of six years in prison. Local promoter William J. Lewis, who was convicted of false﷓return counts only, received a sentence of thirty﷓three months in prison. Nona S. Egbert was sentenced to twenty﷓one months in prison. Additionally, each defendant was ordered to pay the costs of their prosecution, which totaled $7,546.70. Hansen, who had entered into a plea agreement, received a sentence of twelve months and one day in prison.

“Tax fraud victimizes all Americans,” said Eileen J. O’Connor, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The Department of Justice is working with the Internal Revenue Service to ensure that promoters of schemes to defraud the federal government will be caught, prosecuted, and sentenced to serve time in prison.”

According to court records, each of the five defendants was a principal in a group calling itself Association de Libertas. In 1992, the group held seminars in Utah, as well as in other states nationwide, espousing that white U.S. citizens were really non-resident aliens under the income tax code and were not subject to income tax. In Utah, the group caused hundreds of seminar attendees to file millions of dollars in false tax refund claims with the Internal Revenue Service. Participants in the scheme used non-resident alien income tax returns and a format supplied by Association de Libertas in making the claims, which they mailed to the IRS Service Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

“Nobody likes paying taxes, but the vast majority of taxpayers recognize that their hard earned dollars are used in such ways as insuring our national defense and security,” said Byram Tichenor, Special Agent-in-Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation in Utah. “Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society, and we will continue to vigorously pursue promoters of abusive tax avoidance schemes throughout Utah to insure that honest citizens are not footing the bill for someone else’s tax liability.”

Special agents with the IRS Criminal Investigation in Salt Lake City investigated this matter. Trial attorneys Brian Bailey and Brett Sagel, of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, prosecuted this case.

Anyone who has information about suspected tax fraud should report it to the Internal Revenue Service tip line at 1-800-829-0433.