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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

For Immediate Release
November 3, 2010

State Tax Evader Sentenced to Federal Prison

(Austin)- The owner of a Lubbock business has been sentenced to six months in federal prison and ordered to pay the state Comptroller $200,000 in restitution for a scheme involving state tax evasion and wire fraud.

Mike Wooten, 48, the owner of West Texas Lighting Management, pled guilty in Lubbock federal court to misprision of a felony, which is defined in the U.S. Code as having knowledge of the commission of a felony and failing to report the crime to authorities. His sentence, handed down on Oct. 15, includes a year of supervised release after completing his prison term.

Court documents allege that in 2006, Wooten began underreporting his company’s taxable sales to the state Comptroller’s office, knowing the amounts shown on his tax returns were materially false and fraudulent, and using wire communications to file the tax returns. Wooten admitted in his guilty plea that he did not disclose the actual amount of his company’s sales to the Comptroller.

Filing falsified state tax returns and failing to remit taxes collected from a business’s customers are state law violations. When a false tax return is filed electronically, the filer can be charged with the federal offense of wire fraud or misprision of a felony based on wire fraud, which is what happened in the Wooten case.

“This was a complex case involving multiple serious crimes and state and federal jurisdictions,” said Texas Comptroller Susan Combs. “I am pleased that investigators in our Criminal Investigation Division were able to work with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Lubbock to see that justice was done.”

Combs reports that the number of felony tax cases filed by her office increased dramatically in fiscal 2010, after the Criminal Investigation Division streamlined its caseload to focus on the most serious tax law violators. The Comptroller’s office filed 129 felony charges in fiscal 2010, compared to 25 in fiscal 2009.

To learn more about the Criminal Investigation Division of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, visit www.window.state.tx.us/about/cid/

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