Federal Judge Sentences Minister To Five Years For Tax Crimes
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Today, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. sentenced a former Charlotte-area minister, William Todd Coontz, 51, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to 60 months in prison, for failure to pay taxes and aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Judge Conrad also ordered Coontz to serve one year under court supervision after he is released from prison, and to pay $755,669 in restitution.
U.S. Attorney Murray is joined in making today’s announcement by Matthew D. Line, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
According to filed court documents and evidence presented at Coontz’s trial, from 2010 to 2014, Coontz was the minister of Rock Wealth International Ministries (Rockwealth Ministries), and the author of numerous books on faith and finances, such as “Please Don’t Repo My Car,” and “Breaking the Spirit of Debt.” Coontz also operated two for-profit companies, Legacy Media and Coontz Investments and Insurance.
Beginning in tax year 2000 and continuing through tax year 2014, Coontz filed delinquent U.S. Federal Income Tax Returns, Forms 1040, with the IRS and consistently failed to make timely payments on the taxes he owed, despite receiving multiple letters and late notices from the IRS. For example, for tax years 2011 through 2013, Coontz filed late tax returns and did not pay the total assessed taxes, resulting in total tax liabilities of more than $326,394 for those years.
According to today’s sentencing hearing and evidence presented at trial, Coontz also filed false federal income tax returns for tax years 2010 through 2013, which underreported his income. Specifically, Coontz engaged in a check cashing scheme, involving payments for travel reimbursements for speaking engagements and the sale of books and other products. For example, during 2010 through 2013, Coontz regularly traveled to speak at various ministries, for which he was paid speaking fees and was reimbursed for his travel expenses. Coontz hid income from the IRS by claiming the travel as a business expense while simultaneously receiving travel reimbursement that he kept as personal income. Also, in order to boost his income, Coontz told his travel assistant to bill the churches for the cost of a full fare first-class ticket, even though his actual expenses for those tickets was substantially less than the amount billed. Fraudulent travel invoices were created and submitted to the ministries that falsely purported that Coontz had actually paid the full fare ticket price. As a result, the travel reimbursement checks sent directly to Coontz were for amounts in excess of the actual travel expenses incurred by Rockwealth Ministry.
According to trial evidence and other court records, during 2010 through 2013, Coontz also directed that other checks, such as payments for speeches and for the purchase of books and other products, be made payable to “Todd Coontz” and sent to his personal address. In total, Coontz concealed and cashed at least 102 checks for travel reimbursements, speeches, and books and other products, totaling at least $252,037.99 for the relevant time period, causing his total income for the relevant tax years to be underreported on his federal income tax returns. During 2014, Coontz continued to conceal and cash checks received as payments, cashing at least 32 checks totaling $105,454.90 which were not reflected in his accounting records.
Coontz also underreported his income on his tax returns for tax years 2010 through 2013, by failing to include as income payments made by his corporations and ministry for his personal expenses, including payments for the benefit of his family members, and for meals and entertainment. Contrary to the advice of his Certified Public Accountant about comingling personal and business funds, Coontz spent substantial amounts of business funds to pay for personal expenditures, which were falsely classified as business expenses. These purported business expenses included payments totaling more than $227,700 for clothing purchases, and over $140,000 to pay for meals and entertainment expenses at various restaurants, including more than 400 distinct charges at movie theaters.
In addition, instead of holding assets in his own name, Coontz utilized residences and luxury vehicles titled in the names of companies he owned and controlled. For example, luxury vehicles purchased by Legacy Media, Coontz Investments and Insurance, and Rockwealth Ministries during 2011 through 2013 included three BMWs, two Ferraris, a Maserati, and a Land Rover, and a Regal 2500 boat, among others. Coontz treated payments for those items as business expenses, even though some of them were used by family members and there were no records kept about their supposed business use. Additionally, in 2012, Rockwealth Ministries purchased a $1.5 million condominium as a parsonage for Coontz.
In announcing Coontz’s sentence, Judge Conrad said that the defendant showed “incredible” and “long term disrespect for the law.” He also noted that the defendant was “relentless,” in the “ways in which Mr. Coontz tried to cheat.”
Coontz will be ordered to the report the federal Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his sentence, upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Murray thanked the IRS-CI for their investigation of the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jenny G. Sugar and Dallas Kaplan, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.