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Published: Saturday, 5/30/2009

Tax dodgers sentenced to prison

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

For years, Winfield Thomas and Jeanne Herrington worked a scheme in which they fraudulently helped others avoid paying millions of dollars in federal income taxes.

Friday, the two tax protesters were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Toledo to time behind bars.

Thomas, 72, of Carey, Ohio, was ordered to serve 30 months in prison for his conviction of conspiracy to impede the Internal Revenue Service. He was convicted, along with his co-defendant, after a week-long jury trial in November.

Herrington, 61, who is serving a prison term in Michigan, was sentenced to eight years in prison for both convictions on both the conspiracy charge and for corruptly interfering with the administration of tax laws.

Judge David Katz ordered that two of the years be served concurrently with her Michigan prison sentence.

"I have been troubled by [this case] for many reasons, not the least of which is the lack of my ability to understand the egregious acts by Mr. Thomas and how others could be influenced into similar actions," the judge said. "Mr. Thomas' activities in these anti-government tax matters began sometime before 1995 and they continued even after he was advised of the inappropriateness and illegality of these acts."

Judge Katz said it was after Thomas was told that what he was doing was illegal that he invited Herrington to participate. The two represented themselves during their jury trial.

Court records show that in 1993, Thomas promoted and sold information to clients in northern Ohio for $2,000 that purportedly showed how to create a trust that would allow them to avoid paying taxes.

The "abusive trusts" also included filing false tax returns.

Thomas and Herrington promoted the trust schemes as a form of tax relief. Additionally, Herrington was convicted of submitting false tax forms to the IRS in October, 2006.

The IRS said Thomas was responsible for more than $7.7 million in lost tax revenue. Herrington was responsible for nearly $1.6 million, the IRS said.

Thomas said prior to sentencing that he believed he wasn't treated fairly through the process and expressed his intention to appeal.

Herrington, in a separate hearing, said nothing and refused to answer the judge's questions.

Attorneys appointed as standby defense counsel asked the judge to be lenient in his sentencing.

Herrington was sentenced in 2007 to seven to 14 years in prison for two counts of false pretenses and one count of absconding bond. The charges related to attempts to fraudulently obtain vehicles.

"I am significantly concerned about her lack of cooperation in her own defense, her lack of respect for the law and for the courts," Judge Katz said. "She has a very blatant attitude against government officials and the system of government in this country."

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.



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