A Florida evangelist who founded a creationist theme park but was accused of tax fraud because he called his employees missionaries and paid them in cash has been convicted on those counts.
Kent Hovind, of Pensacola, is known as “Dr. Dino,” for his Dinosaur Adventure Land, and had declared at a hearing last summer he did not recognize the government’s right to try him.
His Creation Science Evangelism ministry in Pensacola included a museum and a science center, too, and is dedicated to debunking evolution. He has offered $250,000 reward to anyone offering sufficient proof of evolution.
The evangelist says he’s not a tax protester, asserting he has no income or property because everything belongs to God.
But a 12-person jury deliberated for 2? hours before finding Hovind and his wife, Jo, guilty of all counts in their tax-fraud case, according to a report in the News Journal.
He was found guilty of 58 counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. He faces a maximum of 288 years in prison. Jo Hovind was charged and convicted in 44 of the counts involving evading bank-reporting requirements. She faces up to 225 years in prison but was allowed to remain free pending the couple’s sentencing on Jan. 9, the News Journal said.
“Nobody likes to pay taxes,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer said in her closing argument. “But we do because it’s the law, and he is not above the law.”
The jury also granted the prosecution’s request for the Hovinds to forfeit $430,400, the report said.
U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers released Jo Hovind until sentencing but denied Kent Hovind’s request to be released. He most likely will be detained at either Escambia County Jail or Santa Rosa County Jail until sentencing, the newspaper said.
Lawyer Alan Richey had argued on Hovind’s behalf that the IRS was pursuing his client because of his religious beliefs.
Jo Hovind’s attorney, Jerold Barringer, said his client was a simple piano teacher and grandmother who was not aware of bank-reporting regulations concerning large amounts of cash. She was found guilty of using different ways to do business in cash but avoid transfers of more than $10,000, which trigger IRS reports.
At an earlier hearing, Hovind said he does not believe the United States, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office “have jurisdiction in this matter,” the Pensacola News Journal reported.
Both had pleaded not guilty.
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