Evangelist Hovind found guilty for tax fraud

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Saturday, November 4, 2006

Evangelist Kent Hovind and his wife, Jo, was found guilty on all counts of tax fraud concerning merchandise and amusement park admission sales. The trial began at United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida on Tuesday October 18, 2006, and prosecutors rested their case against Hovind on November 1. Defense lawyers rested their case on the same day without presenting evidence or calling witnesses; Hovind claims that he runs a church, and thus should not have to pay taxes, while prosecutors claimed that he was actually running a business.

Pensacola tax trial

Hovind is a Young Earth creationist who earns income for speaking, selling merchandise (videos), and runs a amusement park that asserts humans and dinosaurs lived together. His talks and videos give a pro-creationism perspective, which he receives income for. Hovind, who calls himself "Dr. Dino", received a Ph.D in "Christian education" from the unaccredited correspondence school Patriot Bible University in 1991.

Hovind faces a maximum of 288 years in prison while his wife faces up to 225 years. The charges against his wife are "aiding and abetting her husband with 44 counts of evading bank-reporting requirements." Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer said Dinosaur Adventure Land, a theme park, "grew and grew and grew," grossing as much as $2 million a year. Whereas Hovind was paid in cash for his speeches, and then got cash for mechandise he sold at his lectures, Jo "was handling the money." This includes, as the Pensacola News Journal noted, "on Dec. 20, 1999, she cashed a check from the Creation Science Evangelism account for $7,500 at 1:15 p.m. She returned at 2:50 p.m. to cash another check from the same account for $7,500." Also "On the day the IRS searched the Hovind home, Kent Hovind withdrew $70,000 from the Creation Science Evangelism account. Half in a check; the other in cash."

Hovind's defense had insisted that experts assured him he was right, but "he sought out only the people who agreed with him, not the people who knew better," Heldmyer said.

Mark O'Brien of the Pensacola News Journal wrote, "The saddest thing: Had they cooperated with the agents, they probably wouldn't be worrying about prison sentences now."

The couple will be sentenced on January 9, 2007 and Hovind is expected to remain in custody until then. Heldmyer said Kent Hovind was a flight risk and a "danger to the community."

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