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Shaler man guilty of evasion

| Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A federal jury in Pittsburgh deliberated about two hours Tuesday before convicting a Shaler man of interfering with the assessment and collection of income taxes and failing to file three years' worth of returns.

Ronald Gardner Jr., 52, deliberately hid income from his business, Gardner Detective Agency, and assets such as his Somerset County home and his car in an attempt to keep the Internal Revenue Service from collecting taxes dating to 1992, prosecutors say.

Gardner declined comment after the verdict. His lawyer, Lowell H. Becraft of Huntsville, Ala., said any decision on an appeal would be made after U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti sentences Gardner.

Becraft told jurors that Gardner relied on government documents in coming to the conclusion that he wasn't subject to federal income taxes. Gardner believed federal jurisdiction was limited to the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico, so it couldn't impose taxes on people in the 50 states, his attorney said.

Becraft said he wasn't surprised at how quickly the jury convicted Gardner of four felonies.

"You never can tell," he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Luke Dembosky said there was little to say about the verdict except that it illustrates the importance of filing tax returns and paying taxes.

Dembosky told jurors the "mountain of evidence" in the case shows Gardner knew he was breaking the law. If he simply believed he didn't owe taxes, he wouldn't have stopped using his Social Security number, closed his bank account, put his business into one fraudulent trust and his home and car into another fraudulent trust, Dembosky said.

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