W.Va. businessman gets prison time for tax evasion

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The operator of a urine-testing firm was sentenced today to 15 months in prison for tax evasion, after a federal judge noted his history of similar crime and the importance of paying the levies that keep government operating.

James R. Corbitt, 67, of Clarksburg, W.Va., managed Nexus Medical Services in Greensburg, and placed many of his personal expenses on that firm's books to avoid taxes, said assistant U.S. attorney Steve Kaufman.

From 2005 through 2009, said Mr. Kaufman, Corbitt earned around $500,000 but paid only $14,000 in taxes, shorting the government by $102,000.

In the meantime, Nexus paid around $28,000 to Audi, $21,000 to Volkswagen, $12,000 to Ford, $32,000 to Porsche Financial, and $20,000 to European motorcycle suppliers for Corbitt's vehicles, according to an IRS Criminal Investigations probe.

"The Corbitts did not even have a personal checking account," Mr. Kaufman said, adding that Nexus even covered his maid service and lawn care.

In 1993, Corbitt was convicted of theft of government property and filing fraudulent tax returns, sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay the Department of Health and Human Services $192,000.

That history seemed to make an impression on U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone, who often sentences financial criminals to probation.

"One of the greatest problems in this country is an underground economy in which individuals simply are not paying their taxes," Judge Cercone said. "I really believe that if everyone in this country paid their fair share of taxes, we could solve so many problems."

Defense attorney Stanley Greenfield argued that non-violent crimes were not traditionally punished with prison, until the drug epidemic prompted sterner sentences. Corbitt, he noted, was not a drug criminal.

That didn't sway Judge Cercone, who said that Corbitt's violation was "in my view, no less serious than many violent offenses."

Corbitt opted not to speak to the judge at sentencing. Asked for comment after the hearing, he said only, "Why would I want to do that?"

Judge Cercone gave Corbitt until mid-June to report to prison. After release, he faces three years of federal probation, and he has agreed to try to pay the IRS what it is owed.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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