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Published November 16, 2012, 03:17 PM

Crookston Business Owner Sentenced for Tax Fraud

A Crookston business owner was sentenced Thursday in federal court on several counts of tax fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota.

By: Herald Staff Report, Grand Forks Herald

A Crookston business owner was sentenced Thursday in federal court on several counts of tax fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota.

Jason Leas, the co-founder of Best Used Trucks of Minnesota Inc., in Crookston was sentenced to six months in prison on one count of failing to pay federal excise taxes, one count of failing to file a federal excise tax return and one count of filing a false individual federal income tax return for tax year 2007. Leas, who was charged in May, pleaded guilty on June 11.

According to the plea agreement, from 2004 through 2007, Best Used Trucks was a farm truck dealership that bought and sold used trucks, new trailers, new grain boxes, and other heavy farm equipment, primarily to farmers throughout the Red River Valley of Minnesota and North Dakota, according to a news release. Beginning in 2004 and continuing through 2007, Leas and Best Used Trucks purchased and imported new trailers, grain boxes, and gravel boxes from a Canadian manufacturer, which subjected the company to federal excise taxes upon selling them afterward. Leas admitted that he knew of his responsibility for paying the 12 percent federal excise tax on the sale of these trailers and related equipment, and his responsibility to file federal excise tax returns, the release said. Leas pleaded guilty to failing to file an IRS Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return, for the third quarter of 2005, and failing to pay federal excise taxes of $9,636 for the first quarter of 2006. Leas admitted that he failed to pay over at least $80,088 in total federal excise taxes for 10 quarters from 2004 through 2006, officials said.

Leas also pleaded guilty to willfully filing a false individual federal income tax return for the tax year 2007, which failed to report at least $120,151 in additional income with an additional tax due and owing of at least $36,872. According to the plea agreement, from 2004 to 2007 Leas controlled two checking accounts in the name of Best Used Trucks of Minnesota. Leas used one of these accounts to both divert corporate receipts from Best Used Trucks, and to buy and sell equipment that was not part of Best Used Trucks’s ordinary business sales. Leas failed to report this income on his individual income tax returns for four years, resulting in a total tax loss of at least $73,361, the release said.

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