|Mel Green with me at the 2009 Prop. 64 battle|
[On August 29, 2011] Before Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner accepted Allen Prevo's motion to seal the court file, an advocate for Anchorage gay, lesbian and transgender rights, Melissa Green, obtained some of the documents and wrote about the case on her blog, BentAlaska. Prevo has long been opposed to gay rights legislation and was active against the April gay rights ballot measure.Mel's August 29, 2011 post at BentAlaska, and later at Henkimaa, opened the door. Soon, the Anchorage Daily News took the matter seriously:
The Daily News successfully sued to open the divorce file and published a story about the church properties Jan. 15.One can only wonder that had we been left only with Mel Green's research, and no followup by the ADN, whether the Anchorage tax assessor would have investigated the fraud. We may never know.
Mauer writes today:
McGee said he asked the Baptist Temple to provide every document in its files concerning property ownership. His staff also reviewed personnel files for promises made to Baptist Temple employees regarding their homes.The church turned over a 2001 sales agreement for Cobaugh for his six-room, 1,824-square-foot home on Sunflower Street, which he still occupies. With the statute of limitations allowing the city to only go back to 2006, the unpaid tax bill for that property is $25,804.Taxes from 2006 on Allen Prevo's home total $35,483.The city investigators found two other pastors, Clary and the Rev. Tony Smith, had oral agreements with similar terms. McGee said because Clary and Smith could not use those agreements to force the Baptist Temple to hand over the deeds when the homes were paid for, he determined that those properties were correctly exempt from taxes.As for Jerry Prevo himself, he said in an interview with the Daily News on Dec. 28 that he wasn't building any personal equity in his home on Baxter Road near the Baptist Temple. His housing agreement with the church allows him and his wife to remain there for life but doesn't provide for a transfer to his name, he said.But that statement was called into question by a notarized document that city investigators found in the Baptist Temple files dated Jan. 31, 2012, a month after the interview with the Daily News, that purported to document the termination of a sales agreement with Prevo six years earlier.
The document was signed by Floyd Damron, chairman of the church's governing Board of Deacons. The note, written "To Whom It May Concern," said that the Baptist Temple and Jerry Prevo had in fact entered into an installment sales agreement in 1994. The note said the agreement "was terminated" Dec. 24, 2005.
The ruling will require the church to pay current taxes and six years of back taxes on each of the houses, the most he could levy under the statute of limitations, McGee said. He will not attempt to collect interest or penalties because the taxes were never billed and therefore weren't technically delinquent. He found no evidence that the church or any of its officials committed tax fraud, only that they misinterpreted the law, he said.McGee is being quite charitable. Back in August 2011, when Green's investigation started this ball rolling, I wrote:
Frankly, in my opinion, looking at how this tax evasion and cheating scam is structured, we should not be calling the Anchorage tax assessment people, we should be calling the white collar crimes units at the Anchorage Police and the office of special prosecutions at the Alaska Department of Law.Nothing that came out as a result of the ADN lawsuit, or in the information that is emerging from McGee's office changes my mind on this.
Whoever structured this scam knew it was a scam, and should be indicted and prosecuted. The ABT should lose their hallowed tax exempt status.
Good job, Richard Mauer.
Excellent job, Mel Green!