TACOMA, Wash.—A Graham, Wash., man pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to evade more than $2.5 million in federal excise taxes in connection with the sale of highway truck tires. As part of the plea agreement, Douglas W. Wiseman, 46, agreed to help federal agents continue their investigation into others believed to be part of the conspiracy.
Mr. Wiseman is scheduled to appear for sentencing May 23, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Angelo J. Calfo.
While employed as a salesman at Tacoma, Wash.-based North American Tire Inc., Mr. Wiseman and other unnamed members of the conspiracy evaded a federal excise tax by falsifying invoices, U.S. Customs records, bills of lading and shipping records to show the export sale of tires that remained in the U.S.
The taxes, levied on highway truck tires sold in or imported into the U.S., average about $28 per tire and are earmarked for transportation-related government spending. But tire dealers may receive refunds of the tax if they prove that the tires were purchased for export.
Members of the alleged conspiracy also evaded the tax by importing millions of dollars of truck tires from Canadian or other foreign suppliers and selling them in the U.S. without filing excise tax returns, Mr. Calfo said.
``Tire dealers that evade federal excise tax put legitimate dealers and wholesalers at an unfair competitive disadvantage, and they deprive the federal government of revenues which are vital to the maintenance of our national transportation infrastructure,'' said Peter Lalic, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division chief.
Mr. Wiseman also pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting others to allow North American Tire to defraud U.S. Bank on a $600,000 line of credit. Draws on the line of credit were tied to false accounts receivable records overstated by Mr. Wiseman and others in the conspiracy.
Court documents showed U.S. Bank lost more than $300,000 by the time the fraud was discovered.
North American Tire said the illegal conduct occurred while Mr. Wiseman worked as a salesman. However, that conduct stopped when he left the company in 1993 and appeared to follow him into his own business, Network Tire.
``North American Tire Inc. has cooperated with the government in the course of its investigation, and will continue to do so,'' the company said in a prepared statement. ``(North American Tire) and its current management deny any wrongdoing and are hopeful that the government's investigation will reach a positive conclusion.
``North American Tire has reviewed its practices and is fully satisfied that it remains in compliance with all applicable federal taxes and customs regulations,'' the company said.
Mr. Calfo said he expects that others will be charged in connection with the crimes.
Special agents of the IRS enacted search warrants against Mr. Wiseman's home and business after an Internal Revenue Service audit of Atlanta Commercial Tire Co. in Georgia aroused suspicion that tires Mr. Wiseman had sold and reported as exports actually remained in the country.