North Dakota man seeks probation in tax fraud case

AP News
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Posted: Dec 11, 2009 3:44 PM

Lawyers for a former gravel company executive who pleaded guilty to nine felony counts of tax fraud have asked a judge to sentence him to home confinement instead of prison.

Micheal Fisher, 36, of Dickinson, N.D., a former vice president and director of Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. Inc., was accused of using money from the family business to pay personal expenses such as for a new home, vacations, legal work, medical and other bills and failing to pay taxes on that income. Prosecutors say the case involved about $630,000 in unpaid taxes.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland said federal sentencing guidelines call for a prison term of 37 to 46 months. Instead, Fisher's lawyers asked for a sentence of one year home confinement and three years probation, along with payment of back taxes and fines.

Fisher's lawyers, James Hovey and Jon Jensen, said in court documents that Fisher did an "incredibly dumb" thing, but the scheme was neither complicated nor sophisticated.

"The nature and circumstances of the offense are nothing more than your garden variety tax fraud crimes," Hovey and Jensen wrote.

Sentencing is set for Monday.

The Fisher family ignored years of Internal Revenue Service warnings before their business and its executives were indicted, Hovland said. IRS audits dating to the 1970s raised questions over the way the company handled the payment of personal expenses for family members, the judge said.

Two other company executives, Amiel Schaff and Clyde Frank, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit tax fraud and were sentenced to 12 months probation, including home confinement. Like Fisher and other family members, they used company money to pay personal expenses and then didn't report it as income, Fisher's lawyers said.

If Hovland won't agree to a sentence of home confinement, Fisher's lawyers suggested a maximum prison sentence of two years, with three years supervised release and restitution.

Fisher has agreed to pay the government about $308,000, and his family's company will pay the remainder of the tax bill, about $320,000.