Michigan Real Estate Developer Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion
Concealed Income and Assets to Avoid Paying Taxes
A Michigan man pleaded guilty yesterday to tax evasion arising from his near decade-long effort to prevent the IRS from collecting taxes he and his businesses owed.
According to court documents, Scott Chappelle, 61, of Okemos and East Lansing, was an attorney and former CPA who operated Terra Management Company, Strathmore Development Company Michigan LLC and Terra Holdings LLC, all of which were involved in real estate development and property management in the East Lansing area. As part of his guilty plea, Chappelle admitted he did not pay over to the IRS employment taxes withheld from the wages of the companies’ employees. When the IRS sought to collect the unpaid taxes, Chappelle made false statements to the agency about his and his companies’ assets and income, concealed his vacation house on Lake Michigan and purchased real property in nominee names instead of his own. Chappelle also falsely told IRS employees he could not afford to pay his tax debts, when in reality he was contemporaneously using business bank accounts to pay paid for personal expenses such as mortgage payments on two houses and a condominium, college tuition for his children, personal credit card bills, life insurance premiums, car payments for himself and one of his children, and expenses associated with boats he owned.
Chappelle also lied to IRS special agents who were investigating his misconduct. He falsely stated he had not purchased property since the IRS began collection activities, and he concealed the source of the funds used to pay for a mortgage on a condominium in East Lansing. During the criminal investigation, Chappelle also filed a false employment tax return for Terra Holdings LLC on which he claimed the company had no employees and paid no wages during the time period covered by the return. In fact, Chappelle knew the company had employees and paid wages during that period because he approved submissions to the company’s payroll provider.
Chappelle further admitted to making false statements on a loan application when he refinanced the mortgage on his Lake Michigan vacation house in Harbor Springs.
Chappelle is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 2. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for tax evasion. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Andrew B. Birge for the Western District of Michigan made the announcement.
IRS-Criminal Investigation is investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Melissa S. Siskind of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy P. VerHey for the Western District of Michigan are prosecuting the case.