Dothan, AL–The owners of Southern Realty in Dothan, Alabama were sentenced Tuesday to federal prison for conspiring to defraud the United States and tax evasion.
After a two-week trial that began Oct. 25, 2011, a federal jury in Montgomery, Ala., convicted Monty Ervin and Patricia Ervin, of one count of conspiracy and three counts of tax evasion. The jury also convicted Patricia Ervin of one count of structuring transactions to avoid bank reporting requirements. Monty Ervin was sentenced to 120 months in prison; Patricia Ervin was sentenced to five years of probation, with the condition that she spend 40 consecutive weekends in jail. In sentencing the Ervins, the court found that Monty Ervin was the leader and organizer of the conspiracy and exercised control over Patricia Ervin.
Based on the evidence introduced at trial, the Ervins amassed hundreds of investment properties over the last decade, receiving more than $9 million in rental income. Despite receiving this income, the couple paid no federal income taxes. When confronted by the IRS in 2006, the Ervins proclaimed that they were not United States citizens, and as “sovereigns,” did not consider themselves subject to federal or state law.
The evidence established that Monty Ervin and Patricia Ervin also filed numerous documents in probate court renouncing their U.S. citizenship. In one such filing, Monty Ervin declared himself the “governor” of Alabama in its “original jurisdiction.” The Ervins had a license plate on their vehicle which law enforcement witnesses testified at trial was associated with a “sovereign citizens” organization.
The Ervins owned and managed Southern Realty, a property management company in Dothan. As the evidence showed at trial, the couple concealed their assets from the IRS by placing investment properties into the names of nominees – “trusts” and “trustees.” The “trustees” named on property deeds testified that they were not involved in the sale or purchase of the properties and that the Ervins “stamped” their signatures onto official property records. Patricia Ervin also structured deposits into Southern Realty’s bank account in an effort to evade federal currency reporting requirements.
In addition to hundreds of real estate investment properties, the evidence also showed that the Ervins had amassed beachfront condominium units in their own names including a $1.3 million unit they paid for in cash and, when investigated by the IRS, transferred those properties into the names of bogus “trusts” and “trustees.” Additionally, the government introduced into evidence $350,000 of gold coins said to have been buried in their yard.
The Ervins were indicted by a federal grand jury in Montgomery in February 2011. In March, Monty Ervin was arrested by a U.S. Marshal’s Service Fugitive Task Force in Naples, Fla., with a notebook containing the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of an island off the coast of Honduras.
“Tax defiers who flout the tax laws by concealing assets in bogus trusts risk criminal prosecution and substantial prison terms, as well as having to pay their back taxes, interest, and penalties,” said Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
“The legality of our income tax laws has been challenged repeatedly and the courts have consistently upheld these laws,” said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation.
“Sentencings like the one returned against the Ervins send a loud and clear message that regardless of their opinions, people who defy the tax laws will be fully investigated, prosecuted and subjected to the full punishment of the law for their actions.”
In addition to prison time, U.S. District Judge Myron H. Thompson ordered the Ervins to pay $1,436,508 in restitution to the IRS.