31 F.3d 262 (5th Cir. 1994), 93-2463, United States v. Townsend

Docket Nº:93-2463.
Citation:31 F.3d 262
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. David J. TOWNSEND, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:August 25, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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31 F.3d 262 (5th Cir. 1994)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

David J. TOWNSEND, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 93-2463.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

August 25, 1994

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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H. Michael Sokolow, Asst. Federal Public Defender, Roland E. Dahlin, Federal Public Defender, Houston, TX, for appellant.

Paula C. Offenhauser, Asst. U.S. Atty., Lawrence Finder, U.S. Atty., Houston, TX, Karen M. Quesnel, Robert E. Lindsay, Chief, Alan Hechtkopf and Gail Brodfuehrer, Crim. Appeals & Tax Enforcement Policy Section, Tax Div., Dept. of Justice, Washington, DC, for appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before REYNALDO G. GARZA, SMITH and PARKER, Circuit Judges.

REYNALDO G. GARZA, Circuit Judge:

Defendant was convicted under I.R.C. Sec. 7201 for evasion of excise tax. The district court found a tax deficiency, affirmative acts constituting tax evasion, and that defendant acted willfully. For the reasons discussed below we affirm.

I. Introduction

This case involves the use of a fraudulent Form 637 in an attempt to circumvent federally imposed excise tax. In 1987 federal law imposed an excise tax of nine cents on each gallon of gasoline sold for highway use. A

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wholesale distributor of gasoline holding a valid "Registration for Tax-Free Transactions," or Form 637, could purchase gasoline free of the excise tax. A Form 637 enables a distributor to purchase gas tax-free and sell it tax-free to a registered wholesaler or retailer. The distributor becomes liable for the excise tax if it sells to an unregistered buyer. In this case Appellant fraudulently presented a Form 637 to several distributors, purchased the gas, and then promptly sold the gas to an unregistered buyer.

II. Background

David Townsend, the inventor of a gasoline oxygenating product, moved his California-based fuel blending business (Anafuel) to Houston, Texas in 1986. Townsend, with Lloyd Maxwell, Lamar Maxwell, David Maxwell, Don Maxwell, and Arthur Maxwell formed Petrolife, Inc. (Petrolife), a gasohol blending company. Appellant Townsend was named chief executive officer, Lloyd Maxwell was named the secretary-treasurer and chief financial officer, and Lamar Maxwell was named president.

In November of 1986 Petrolife decided to apply for a Form 637. Signed by Lloyd Maxwell as chief financial officer and dated November 20, 1986, the form was submitted to the IRS. IRS Agent Mike Grayson met with Lloyd Maxwell and Charles Crockett, a Petrolife employee, to discuss the application. Agent Grayson explained the requirements of the Form 637 and told them that it could take several months to obtain approval. Petrolife decided that they were not prepared to disclose all the necessary financial information required for approval at that time. Consequently, the application was deferred. Mr. Crockett was to retain Petrolife's copies of the application until the corporation was ready to reapply. Petrolife never reapplied for the Form 637.

Subsequently, Appellant asked Mr. Crockett for the application. Mr. Crockett handed the application to him under the assumption that he was seeking to reapply for approval. Later that day Townsend showed Mr. Crockett the Form 637 and said that he had obtained a registration number and the signature of the IRS district director. 1

In July of 1987 Townsend contacted Jetero, a gasoline distributor, and expressed interest in making a purchase. Jetero met with Townsend and discussed forms Jetero required before fuel could be supplied. Townsend provided the necessary forms, including the fraudulent Form 637. These forms listed Petrolife as a manufacturer selling gasohol and listed Petrolife/Anafuel as the purchaser. Upon receipt of the required forms Jetero commenced supplying the fuel tax-free. The Jetero invoices were addressed to "Petrolife, Attn: David J. Townsend."

A total of 264,030 gallons of gasoline were purchased from Jetero in August of 1987.

Townsend also contacted Crown, another gasoline distributor, expressing his desire to purchase gasoline. After he provided the requested documentation, including the fraudulent Form 637, Crown began supplying gasoline. The checks used to pay for the gas listed Petrolife/Anafuel as purchaser. A total of 161,679 gallons of gasoline were purchased from Crown in August of 1987.

The gasoline supplied by Jetero and Crown was shipped to Mr. Chehade Boulos, a service station operator. The funds used by Townsend were drawn from an account opened in the name of Anafuel at the Lone Star Bank. Mr. Boulos would make deposits to this account in exchange for the gasoline shipments. The bank would then issue cashier checks, which were used to pay Crown and Jetero. Basically, Townsend used the funds prepaid by Mr. Boulos to make the payments to Crown and Jetero.

No taxes were paid by Townsend or Petrolife on the gasoline sold to Mr. Boulos. 2 By using the fraudulent Form 637 and purchasing gas through an Anafuel account, Townsend acted without the knowledge or

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consent of the other officers of Petrolife. When Mr. Crockett became aware of Appellant's transactions he informed Mr. Lloyd Maxwell of his intention to inform the IRS. Mr. Maxwell approved.

IRS Agent Grayson became aware of the fraudulent Form 637 during a routine inspection of Jetero's records. Agent Grayson immediately knew the form was invalid. First, he knew that Petrolife's Form 637 had never been approved. Second, the registration number did not correspond to the numbers issued by the Houston office. Third, the signatures on the form were not signed properly. Agent Grayson spoke with Mr. Gonzales, the owner of Jetero, concerning the problem. Mr. Gonzales told Appellant that the registration number was invalid. Townsend responded rather angrily that the number was correct. Later he told Mr. Gonzales that he had a new temporary number. Notwithstanding the temporary number, Mr. Gonzales refused to sell any more gasoline to Townsend on advice of the IRS.

IRS Agent Vitz took over the investigation. Agent Vitz observed the same inconsistencies in the Petrolife Form 637 and therefore contacted Townsend. On September 5, 1987 Agent Vitz requested more information regarding the application. Townsend promised that the information would be forthcoming. After receiving no new information, Agent Vitz paid a visit to his office. Townsend again stated that the registration number was a temporary number issued by the Houston office. But no temporary numbers had issued in 1987.

Agent Taylor met with Townsend and showed him the fraudulent Form 637 and asked if he had ever seen this form. Townsend replied that Mr. Crockett had presented this form to him but that he, Townsend, had never given it to anyone.

On May 20, 1992 a grand jury indicted Townsend for attempting to evade federal...

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