New Mexico Farmer Convicted of Tax Fraud, Fraudulently Collecting Farm Subsidies
Bill Melot, a resident of Hobbs, N.M., was convicted today of tax evasion, failure to file tax returns, making false statements to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and impeding the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) following a four day jury trial before Judge M. Christina Armijo in Albuquerque, N.M., the Justice Department, IRS and the USDA’s Office of Inspector General announced.
According to the indictment and evidenced presented at trial, Melot owes the IRS more than $18 million in federal taxes and has not filed a personal tax return since 1986. In addition, Melot has improperly collected over $225,000 in federal farm subsidies from USDA by furnishing false information to the agency. Specifically, Melot provided the USDA a false Social Security Number and fictitious Employer Identification Number to collect federal farm aid.
According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, Melot took a numerous steps to conceal his ownership of the 250 acres in Lea County, N.M., including notarizing forged deeds and titling the property in the name of nominees. The evidence further showed that Melot used false Social Security Numbers and fictitious Employer Identification Numbers 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. Melot failed to report the Swiss account to the U.S. Treasury Department as required by law.
Melot faces a maximum term of 49 years in prison and a maximum fine of $2,850,000. He was jailed pending sentencing, which is set for May 20, 2010.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John DiCicco 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 Assistant U.S. Attorney George Kraehe, who prosecuted the case. Acting Assistant Attorney General DiCicco also thanked the Criminal Investigation Division of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts for its 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/.