Valdez Couple sentenced for long running tax evasion scheme
Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that Gary and Marladeen Jokela of Valdez, Alaska, were sentenced for willfully evading Gary Jokela’s tax liabilities for more than a decade. U.S. District Court Judge H. Russel Holland sentenced Gary Jokela to one year in federal prison. Marladeen Jokela was sentenced to six months in federal prison, followed by six months of home confinement.
According to court filings, the Jokelas last filed a tax return in 1984. Meanwhile, Gary Jokela had outstanding tax liabilities that had not been paid since at least 1998. The Internal Revenue Service previously assessed taxes against Mr. Jokela and sent him numerous notices that the Service intended to levy his wages and bank accounts. When the Jokelas received these notices, both Gary and Marladeen began cashing Gary’s paychecks rather than depositing them to their joint bank account. In total, Gary cashed more than $170,000 of his paychecks.
Around the same time, Mrs. Jokela opened a separate bank account in her own name. Neither Gary Jokela's name nor his social security number were associated with this new account. During several of the years at issue in the case, Mrs. Jokela deposited more than $112,000 into her separate account.
The Jokelas also made sure that no taxes were withheld from Gary’s wages. In 2004, Gary submitted an IRS Form W-4 on which he claimed to be “exempt” from federal income tax withholding. When the IRS subsequently attempted to levy Gary’s wages directly from his employer, both of the Jokelas convinced the office’s bookkeeper not to honor the IRS notices.
The Jokelas admitted that they consistently failed to make any payments to the IRS between 1998 and 2008, they continually spent income on other personal items, including a motor home, a timeshare, and vacations. Between 2002 and 2008, the couple made more than $150,000 in credit card purchases, including vacations to Mexico and Hawaii; more than $30,000 on a motor home; and of more than $35,000 on other personal vehicles. Likewise, between 1998 and 2008, the Jokelas made $15,000 in payments on a timeshare in Florida.
In addition to their prison sentences, the judge ordered the Jokelas to pay restitution in the amount of $51,889, with the express understanding that the IRS will seek interest and penalties on top of that amount. Judge Holland described the Jokelas’ conduct as “a blatant case of tax evasion” and said that their actions showed a “total lack of respect” for their obligations as citizens, despite their apparent willingness to accept both direct and indirect government benefits. The judge warned that tax evasion schemes that seem “too good to be true” almost always are.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation, and is being jointly prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas C. Bradley and Stephanie C. Courter of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.