Prominent ex-accountant gets 5 years for tax convictions

Published 2:33 pm Thursday, May 23, 2019

(AP) — A politically connected former certified public accountant in Mississippi was sentenced Thursday to five years in federal prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States.

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett sentenced Carl Nicholson, of Hattiesburg, and ordered him to pay restitution of $629,432 to the IRS and a $25,000 fine, according to a Justice Department statement.

Starrett said during the sentencing hearing that he had read numerous letters submitted to the court supporting Nicholson and his contributions to the community. But the Hattiesburg American reported that Starrett also admonished Nicholson.

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“Somewhere along the way you forgot your moral compass,” Starrett told him. “This is one of the most egregious (tax crimes). You knew what you were doing. You were cheating the government and stealing from your partners. It is sad that it has all come to this.”

Nicholson served on the state College Board from 1993 to 2004, after being chosen by Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice.

Court documents say that from 2012 to 2014, Nicholson conspired with a client to falsely classify personal expenses as business expenses and that Nicholson filed false tax returns on the client’s behalf. He also was convicted of filing his own false personal income tax returns from 2012 through 2015.

A federal jury found Nicholson guilty in February of all 11 tax-related charges he faced.

Mike Hurst, the U.S. attorney for southern Mississippi, said in a statement that Nicholson “abused his position of trust as a CPA and defrauded Mississippians and American taxpayers.”

“This case illustrates that no one is above the law,” Hurst said.

Nicholson could have received up to 35 years in prison and $2.75 million in fines.

Nicholson was the accountant for former Forrest County Sheriff’s chief deputy Charles Bolton and his wife, Linda Bolton. The couple accused him of misleading them, causing them to file fraudulent tax returns.

The Boltons were convicted on multiple counts of tax-related crimes and are serving their sentences in federal prisons. Linda Bolton’s release date is July 4. Charles Bolton is expected to be released Aug. 7, 2020.