OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A North Carolina computer engineer who said he didn’t have to file federal individual income tax returns has been convicted of three counts of tax evasion.
A federal jury in Omaha, Nebraska found Chet West guilty on Tuesday, the Omaha World-Herald said. Prosecutors said the 59-year-old West faces up to five years in prison for each count as well as a $250,000 fine when he’s sentenced on May 18.
According to prosecutors, West, of Nebo, North Carolina, told his Omaha-based employer from 2007 to 2009, Infocrossing Inc., that he was exempt from taxes. West, who acted as his own attorney, asked in his opening statement for the jury to be his champion and protect him from the U.S. government.
He said he’d found a loophole in the federal tax code and had sent the government a letter explaining that he’d decided not to be subject to income taxes. But prosecutors said the IRS officials said in their reply that American citizens living in the United States can’t opt out of taxes.
West owed more than $52,800 in income taxes over those years, in which he earned more than $272,000, prosecutors said. And he also deposited income into bank accounts opened in the names of companies he created in an effort to hide and conceal his income from the Internal Revenue Service, prosecutors said.
In his closing argument Tuesday, West asked jurors to “see the truth and set me free.”
It took them about an hour to find him guilty.