Former Bellevue real-estate developer Winston Bontrager was sentenced Friday to 11 years in prison for failing to pay more than $2.7 million in income tax. His girlfriend, Pauline Anderson, was sentenced to 39 months for her involvement.
U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones said the sentences were based on the “plain old fashion greed” that motivated Bontrager and the inability of both defendants to take responsibility for their actions.
Addressing the court before his sentencing, Bontrager through his tears simply asked the judge to be lenient when sentencing Anderson.
“She doesn’t belong here,” he said.
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Bontrager, 64, was convicted in July on nine tax counts and eight counts of making false statements. Anderson, 65, was convicted on 11 tax counts.
During the four-week jury trial, the prosecutor detailed how Bontrager and Anderson failed to report more than $23 million in income from various development deals, and didn’t paymore than $2.7 million they owed in taxes between 2004 to 2009, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office.
At the same time, the couple purchased and spent $500,000 to remodel a luxury condominium in Bellevue, and owned a $1.2 million home in Southern California. They also owned a $325,000 wine collection, a 6.7-carat diamond ring and a $186,000 Bentley, and spent more than $3.4 million in credit-card purchases.
The case was about “fraud, deceit and evasion,” prosecutors told the jury during the trial.
Bontrager was previously convicted in 1983 for bank fraud. In 1994 he alsowas convicted of defrauding the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System and the Internal Revenue Service of $687,000 and sentenced to 40 months in prison. The prosecution and the judge both called his most recent scheme a “carbon copy” of the 1994 fraud.
Some of the latest charges
were for false statements Bontrager made in court about his failure to pay more than $687,000 in restitution from his previous conviction. That unpaid restitution ultimately lead to the IRS discovering the tax evasion and raiding the couple’s home in August 2010.
Bontrager and Anderson were indicted in March 2012 and have been in federal custody since June of that year.
The sentences are less than what the prosecution recommended, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Carl Blackstone said he thinks it was a fair sentence when looking at the scope of the tax fraud.
When sentencing Bontrager, the judge quoted German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm, who wrote: “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.”
The couple are jointly responsible for paying the $2.7 million in restitution. Anderson is an Australian citizen, so after serving her sentence she will be turned over to immigration for possible deportation.
Bontrager’s son, Jason Bontrager, pleaded guilty earlier
for his role
in his father’s scheme. He will be sentenced Jan. 10.
Information from The Seattle Times archives was used in this report. Coral Garnick: 206-464-2422 or firstname.lastname@example.org.