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Prosecutors: Oregon couple stopped paying taxes in 1994, owe more than $1M

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EUGENE, Oregon — A Coos County couple on trial in federal court stopped paying taxes two decades ago and now owe the government more than $1 million in back taxes, interest and penalties, federal prosecutors say.

The government alleges that 71-year-old Ronald Joling tried many ruses to avoid paying taxes, but his lawyer told jurors during opening statements Wednesday they should find Joling not guilty if they believe he acted in good faith.

Joling has deeply held beliefs that he isn't required to pay federal taxes, an idea influenced by conservative Christian views and advisers who taught him about the "sovereign citizen" movement, defense attorney Mark Weintraub said.

Weintraub called it part of a "completely crazy way of thinking" that he doesn't agree with personally, but he told the jury members they must acquit Joling if they conclude he didn't willfully break the law.

For her part, his wife of 51 years, Dorothea, was merely "a devoted and obedient wife," said her defense lawyer, Emilio Bandiero.

"Her God speaks to her through her husband," Bandiero said.

Prosecutors, however, say the couple own a motel and diner in Coquille, as well as other property, and knew full well what the tax law required but filed false returns and tried to hide their assets. "We will show you they knew what the law is, and they just didn't want to pay their fair share," Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Cardani said.

He said that besides attempting to revoke their citizenship, the couple set up trusts into which they transferred the title from properties they had owned; deposited more than $110,000 into a "warehouse bank" in an attempt to hide the money; filed false tax returns and a fraudulent bankruptcy petition; and "besieged" the IRS with "nonsensical paperwork."

The trial is expected to last into next week.


Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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