HOUSTON (CN) – The married founders of a Christian church face up to 11 years in prison after a federal jury convicted them of tax evasion.
The verdicts against David and Bridget Montgomery came after less than 2 days of trial and 3½ hours of deliberations, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
The Montgomerys founded their church, the Restoration Temple Church of God in Christ, in Humble, Texas, a suburb of Houston.
David Montgomery said during trial that he did not think they had to report income earned by their construction business that they invested in the church.
The Montgomerys were convicted of conspiring to impede the IRS and two counts of making false statements by underreporting income, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
“The United States presented a series of witnesses, most of whom were pastors or representatives of small local churches for whom the Montgomerys performed construction services in exchange for payments from 2003-2005,” prosecutors said in the statement. “An IRS agent also testified that the loss of tax revenue to the U.S. Treasury was approximately $600,000 due to these payments not being claimed on their income tax returns.
“Mr. Montgomery’s defense was that a friend in the construction industry, since deceased, advised him that if he ploughed funds earned from their construction business into their church, they did not have to report it to the IRS and pay tax on it.
“Mrs. Montgomery contended that she made mistakes because she was in over her head when she prepared the returns.”
Prosecutors also said the couple claimed more income than they reported to the IRS in applications for a $900,000 loan, and to get credit to buy luxury cars.
They both face up to 11 years in federal prison and $350,000 in fines at their sentencing hearing, which has not been set.
They are free on bond until then.