Court Slams Councilman for $350K in Back Taxes

     CHICAGO (CN) – A former Illinois councilman who lied about his address and failed to pay taxes for about 20 years cannot appeal his conviction and four-year sentence, the 7th Circuit ruled.
     Michael Collins left his position as a councilman for the city of East St. Louis, Ill., in 2002 and moved to the nearby suburb of Belleville. He later bought a house in Swansea, enrolled his daughter in the local public school and listed Swansea address as his primary residence on various financial documents.
     But Collins continued to use his previous address to vote in East St. Louis and run for precinct committeeman of that city’s Democratic Party in 2002. He was re-elected in 2004, 2006 and 2008.
     After the Public Corruption Task Force sent agents to Collins’ East St. Lewis address, they found that Collins’ sister owned the property and that it was occupied only by her son.
     After checking Internal Revenue Service records to see what address Collins had listed on his tax returns, they discovered that Collins had not filed a federal tax return for 13 years. He had not paid state taxes for 22 years.
     Collins was indicted, tried and convicted of tax evasion, willful failure to file tax returns and voter fraud. U.S. District Judge William Stiehl sentenced him to 50 months imprisonment and ordered almost $350,000 in restitution.
     On appeal, Collins challenged the jury instructions, sufficiency of evidence, and the tax-loss calculation.
     A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit summarily rejected his arguments Friday.
     “The evidence on the tax-evasion and voter-fraud counts was abundant and easily sufficient to support the jury’s verdict,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote for the court. “Collins did not file federal or state tax returns for many years, and to hide his income, he commingled his personal and business accounts, used a false Employer Identification Number, and misappropriated the Social Security Number of his deceased business partner.”
     The District Court also properly rejected the testimony of Collins’ tax-loss expert who admitted in court that her estimates relied on incomplete and, in many cases, inaccurate information provided by Collins, the court noted.
     The three-judge panel affirmed Collins’s conviction and sentence.
     Collins had also been convicted of felony election fraud in 2001 for fraudulently registering voters. He was sentenced to 18 months of probation and 125 hours of community service.

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