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Wednesday - September 17, 2003

GREENVILLE - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that FRANK LESTERS BOWDEN was sentenced in federal court in Greenville, N. C., on Monday, September 15, 2003, by U. S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard, for conspiracy and federal tax violations.

BOWDEN, 52, of Goldsboro, N. C., received a sentence of 84 months imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and a $500.00 special assessment.

His co-defendant, VICKIE JONES PEELE, 42, also of Goldsboro, was sentenced by Judge Howard on May 28, 2003. She received a sentence of 18 months imprisonment, three years of supervised release, and a $500.00 special assessment.

On February 7, 2003, following a three-day jury trial in Greenville, BOWDEN and PEELE were each convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States Treasury/Internal Revenue Service and four counts of making false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims to the Internal Revenue Service for tax refunds. They were indicted by a federal grand jury in Wilmington on July 24, 2002.

Evidence presented in court showed that BOWDEN and PEELEprepared and filed IRS Forms 1041, which are used to report trust income, using the names of several taxpayers. The evidence further showed that none of the taxpayers for whom the forms were prepared and filed operated any trust accounts and that all of the figures on the 1041 Forms were fabricated.

BOWDEN allegedly used his title as "Reverend" and "Bishop" to persuade taxpayers that his scheme was legitimate and held meetings and seminars at his church, at his home, and at taxpayers' homes to instruct his audiences in how to prepare fraudulent 1041 Forms. They were told that they could obtain a refund of all of the money they had paid into the Social Security System during the course of their lives. BOWDEN and PEELE also talked to the taxpayers about the "Washitaw Nation," a fictional place populated almost entirely by separatist tax protesters who have their own birth certificates, driver's licenses, and license plates. They told them that if they joined Washitaw Nation, they would no longer be U. S. citizens and would not have to pay taxes again. Evidence showed that BOWDENoffered his services for $100.00 in cash as a preparation and processing fee, and sometimes charged an additional 10% of the refund for check cashing.

Investigation of the case was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation. Assistant U. S. Attorney David J. Cortes handled the case for the government.

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