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Press Release

Rochester Business Owner Sentenced to Prison for Tax Crimes

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The owner of a Rochester jewelry business has been sentenced to six months in prison followed by one year of supervised release, announced United States Attorney Andrew M. Luger. 

According to court documents, Bernard James Benavidez, 62, is the sole owner and operator of Master Jewelers, Inc., located in Rochester, Minnesota. Because of its corporate structure, Master Jewelers was responsible for paying its own corporate taxes while Benavidez was independently responsible for reporting any salary, wages, or other compensation that Master Jewelers paid to him personally. But Benavidez regularly and intentionally diverted significant portions of Master Jewelers’ gross sales into his personal bank accounts for the purpose of lowering tax liabilities. Benavidez occasionally directed customers to pay him personally for work he completed on behalf of the business. Master Jewelers also sold significant amounts of scrap metal as part of its business and Benavidez deposited the proceeds into his personal bank account instead of the corporate account to avoid the funds from being captured on tax returns.

In total, between 2013 and 2017, Benavidez successfully concealed $432,373.42 in Master Jewelers’ sales, which resulted in unpaid tax liabilities of $147,006.96.

“Financial crimes involving the concealment, diversion and manipulation of business funds can be quite difficult to detect,” said Justin Campbell, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Chicago Field Office. “The sentencing of this individual underscores the fact that IRS-CI special agents are as meticulous as they are dedicated to bringing to justice business owners who attempt to evade their tax obligations.”

Benavidez pleaded guilty on February 3, 2023, to one count of making and subscribing a false tax return. Benavidez was sentenced yesterday before Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright.

This case was jointly investigated by IRS – Criminal Investigations.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jordan L. Sing.

Updated July 19, 2023