2009 Tax Offender of the Year

There were, as usual, several deserving individuals for the 2009 Tax Offender of the Year. To be considered for the Tax Offender of the Year award, you must do more than cheat on your taxes. It has to be special; it really needs to be a Bozo-like action or actions.

Coming in a close second to our winner was the 1st session of the 111th United States Congress. This Congress, dominated by Democrats, managed to take the art of spending to new heights of lowness. Budget sanity? Who needs that! Our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will be paying for Congress’ largess.

In third place was James Traficant. Mr. Traficant, just out of ClubFed for ten felonies including tax evasion, will be running for Congress next year. The pride of Youngstown, Ohio figures to have a good shot at being in the 112th Congress.

The other nominee was our friend Wesley Snipes. Mr. Snipes is appealing his three misdemeanor tax evasion convictions. While some of Mr. Snipes’ actions were Bozo, he is now promising to pay any tax he owes and that’s definitely not a Bozo action.

To find our winner we must head to Northern California. Mare Island used to be a naval shipyard. Today, it’s been redeveloped into a variety of uses. One of those uses was for storing wine. Mare Island is also a National Historic Landmark.

That seems mundane, but Mare Island is in Vallejo, conveniently close to Napa Valley and the heart of California’s wine industry. Mark Anderson, then a City Commissioner in nearby Sausalito, capitalized on this by starting a wine storage facility utilizing a warehouse at Mare Island early in this century.

But things started going wrong. By 2005, the Marin County District Attorney was investigating Mr. Anderson; he was accused in February 2005 of selling some of the pricey bottles of wine that he was supposed to be storing and using the proceeds for his own good. That’s fraud and embezzlement if true. That case is still pending. He allegedly used the proceeds to support an extravagant lifestyle.

Concurrently, Mr. Anderson’s business was being evicted from the warehouse. Apparently none of the proceeds from the alleged fraud and embezzlement were diverted to paying the bills for the warehouse.

To add insult to injury, Mr. Anderson was being investigated for tax evasion. Illegal income is just as taxable as legal income. With the noose tightening as the calendar turned to Fall, Mr. Anderson faced a dilemma.

There are options available. Finding a good attorney and challenging the charges is one good option. Perhaps bankruptcy would be a possible solution. Yet another options would be to tone down the lifestyle.

One option that you and I would never consider is to burn down the wine storage facility. Committing arson would only compound his troubles, and given Mare Island’s status would be yet another federal offense.

But that’s exactly what he did. He set fire to the warehouse, and 92 million bottles of wine and the entire warehouse burned to the ground. Many wineries lost all of their stored wine. Some wineries went out of business and many wine collectors lost everything.

What did it gain Mr. Anderson? Perhaps four years of semi-freedom. But that freedom ended on November 16, 2009 when Mr. Anderson pleaded guilty to 19 counts, including arson and tax evasion. Federal prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 15 years, 8 months at ClubFed. Mr. Anderson, age 61, is not in good health; even this reduced sentence is likely equivalent to a life sentence.

It’s a sad story, with an ending that hurt an entire community. Unfortunately, instead of making what good could have been made of a bad situation Mr. Anderson made a bad situation far, far worse. For that he wins our award as the 2009 Tax Offender of the Year.

While I’m hopeful that 2010 will be a year when this award is not given, I’m realistic. Every year it seems that there’s yet another horribly Bozo tax offender.

That’s a wrap for 2009. I wish everyone a Happy, Healthy, and Safe New Year.


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