Nigerian Ex-Tax Chief In U.S. Jailed 10 Years For Theft - Naija USA

Nigerian Ex-Tax Chief In U.S. Jailed 10 Years For Theft

By on April 18, 2012
Patrick Onyemechara, 53, former Director of City of Monroe Revenue and Taxation Department in Louisiana, USA, was sentenced last Tuesday to 10 years imprisonment with hard labor on each of 10 felony theft counts at 4th Judicial District Court. The sentences run concurrently. Onyemechara was ordered to pay restitution to the City of Monroe in the mount of $121,688. Judicial District ad hoc Judge James Boddie gave Onyemechara credit for time served, by suspending two and half years of the sentence, reducing it from 12 1/2 to 10 years. Onyemechara was held in the Ouachita Correctional Center since 2009 as he could not come up with the required $1.8 million bail. His passports remain in the custody of the court as he was determined to be a potential flight risk Jury selection was under way for his trial when he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of felony theft in March. Sentencing was scheduled for June 13, but later rescheduled for Tuesday, June 21, at the request of Ad Hoc Judge James Bodie.
Onyemechara would be placed on 10-year supervised probation after release from prison. He would not be allowed to apply for or have access to a passport and cannot visit any foreign country during the probationary period.
In a speech shortly before his sentencing, Onyemechara said he was sorry for what he did, but he was not a bad person. “From the depth of my heart I am truly, truly sorry for any pain I have caused to anyone or any business in this jurisdiction. I am portrayed as this godfather with this Sicilian and Nigerian connection – I’m not a bad person and only God can judge me.” Onyemechara said.
Onyemechara was arrested in 2009 accused of taking tax payment cheques (checks) collected by his office and ordering cashiers under him to cash them with funds in their drawers. He would keep the money to himself. He was employed with the city for 11 years with eight of them spent as Director of the Revenue and Taxation Department. He became Director of Taxation and Revenue in 2001. According to prosecution, one of the biggest cashed cheque was a $12,029 tax rebate from the state of Louisiana to the city of Monroe.
Onyemechara’s trouble began when a city employee discovered a cheque for $73,606 dated Dec. 12, 2006, written by a Monroe business to cover delinquent sales taxes had not been deposited into the bank. Upon further investigation, the city employee found additional cheque stubs for delinquent sales tax receipts that lacked corresponding payment posting to city accounts of the businesses. At that point, city officials contacted Monroe Police which executed a search warrant on Onyemechara’s office. Investigators interrogated taxation and revenue employees, who confirmed Onyemechara gave them instructions to forward all delinquent sales tax payments to him. According to documents, one city cashier said Onyemechara presented a number of cheques to her and told her to “cash the checks and give him the cash”. The cashier kept a log of each check, with transactions dating back to 2004. Investigators also served a search warrant at Onyemechara’s home, where they discovered more financial records and bank documents.
Speaking for prosecution, Assistant District Attorneys Neal Johnson and Fred McGaha said the theft amount was fixed at $121,688, which was the amount documented by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office during its two-year audit of the department. According to them, the amount represented what was on the error logs maintained by various cashiers. They said there was over $240,000 worth of transactions that fit the pattern used by Onyemechara, but error logs that were kept only documented $121,688 because the defendant got the head cashier shred the logs.
Before sentencing, Judge Boddie heard a victim impact statement from Stacey Haynie, Director of Accounting for the city. Haynie said she found evidence of error logs dating back to 2003 and “based on that, I believe it started the day he walked in the door as director”. She said some of the error logs were destroyed at Onyemechara’s direction and that he threatened staff from time to time. In her words: “employees worked out of fear”. Onyemechara’s defense lawyer, Charles Kincade pleading for leniency, told the court his client had no prior criminal history and that none of the threats were ever documented. “He is a true first-time offender. He has exhibited remorse.” Kincade said.

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