New Mexico Farmer Sentenced to Prison for Tax Fraud, Fraudulently Collecting Farm Subsidies
ALBUQUERQUE – Bill Melot, a farmer from Hobbs, N.M., was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison today to be followed by three years of supervised release for tax evasion, program fraud and other crimes, the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General announced today. Melot was also ordered to pay $18,469,998.51 in restitution to the IRS and $226,526 to the USDA.
Melot was previously convicted of tax evasion, failure to file tax returns, making false statements to the USDA and impeding the IRS following a four-day jury trial in Albuquerque, N.M. According to court documents and evidence presented at trial and at sentencing, Melot has not filed a personal income tax return since 1986, and owes the IRS more than $25 million in federal taxes and more than $7 million in taxes to the state of Texas. In addition, Melot has improperly collected more than $225,000 in federal farm subsidies from the USDA by furnishing false information to the agency. Specifically, Melot provided the USDA with a false Social Security number (SSN) and a fictitious employer identification number (EIN) to collect federal farm aid.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Melot took numerous steps to conceal his ownership of 250 acres in Lea County, N.M., including notarizing forged deeds and titling the property in the name of nominees. The evidence also showed that Melot used false SSNs and fictitious EINs to hide his assets from the IRS. Additionally, Melot maintained a bank account with Nordfinanz Zurich, a Swiss financial institution, which he set up in Nassau, Bahamas, in 1992, and failed to report the account to the U.S. Treasury Department as required by law.
Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally for the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Steven C. Yarbrough for the District of New Mexico commended the investigative efforts of IRS - Criminal Investigation and the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, as well as Tax Division Trial Attorney Jed Silversmith and former Assistant U.S. Attorney George Kraehe, who prosecuted the case. Assistant Attorney General Keneally and Acting U.S. Attorney Yarbrough also thanked the Criminal Investigation Division of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts for assistance in prosecuting this matter.
More information about the Justice Department’s Tax Division and its enforcement efforts is available at www.usdoj.gov/tax/.