Anglican Watch has confirmed from sources close to the matter that the IRS has received a written complaint and documentation of questionable practices on the part of Beth Abrahamson and Jeff Piatt during their time with St. Paul’s Montvale. The news follows the church’s annual episcopal visitation, in which the bishop of Newark joined the parish. Abrahamson is Piatt’s sister-in-law.
The formal IRS complaint includes actions by Jeff Piatt and Beth Abrahamson, and references several businesses related to them. In addition, it includes specific transactions in which Abrahamson wrote checks to family members, allegedly to reimburse the family members for landscaping services performed on behalf of the church. Specific allegations in the complaint reportedly include:
- Money laundering.
- Organized criminal activity.
- Failure to pay taxes.
- Concealment of income.
- Improper deductions.
- Theft of church financial records.
Copies of two of the questionable checks written by Abrahamson are included in this post. One was written shortly after a $10,000 donation to the church by Jeff Piatt, and at $9,800 is just shy of the amount that must be reported to the IRS by law.
During the visit of the Rt. Rev. Carlye J. Hughes, she expressed support for the parish and its leadership, and appears to recognize that reconciliation is neither desirable nor possible when the relationship involves abusive conduct by the dissidents.
Meanwhile, about two dozen protestors appeared outside the church during the episcopal visit. Many of the protestors were children, who carried signs, but did not appear to understand the conflict itself.
One individual tore down the church’s Pride flag. During a subsequent police investigation, he told officers that he is a Christian and thought he was aiding the church through his actions. Church officials hope to receive the results of the criminal investigation within the next several days.
Anglican Watch has been told that additional criminal and tax referrals will happen in the next few days. Additionally, the publication has learned that the IRS has been warned that Piatt may attempt to use contacts with local elected and police officials, protests, and other tactics to hinder possible investigations.
Federal law prohibits money laundering under two statutes. Both provide stiff felony penalties for a conviction. A defendant faces 10 to 20 years in federal prison, plus fines up to $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds involved in the crime. Additional penalties may apply if the money laundering was a part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. Similarly, federal tax fraud may involve five years in federal prison and civil fraud penalties.
The average prison term for tax evasion is 3 to 5 years.
All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty. A referral to the IRS does not necessarily mean that the persons or organizations referenced are guilty or have engaged in inappropriate conduct.
Anglican Watch invites the Piatts, Beth Abrahamson and anyone else involved in this situation to contact the publication by email if they have documentation that would explain these questionable transactions.
My take: Beth Abrahamson should be very worried right about now. As the person writing and signing the checks, she will face jail time and huge fines if they were laundering money through the church.
If she and Piatt are organizing protests to cover their tracks, a judge is going to look at things and conclude there is no remorse. So they will both go down hard if there is illegal activity.
Let us in!
So if I understand correctly, the subjects of the article are suspected of defrauding the church to line their own pockets via fraudulent services and donations via family affiliated businesses, correct?
Hi Toucan. It’s good to see you.
Our understanding is that they are suspected of tax avoidance and money laundering, versus defrauding the church itself. That said, we won’t know all the details until the audits now under way are completed. In addition, sources tell us that multiple federal agencies are involved, ranging from the IRS, to the Small Business Adminstration, to banking regulators, to the Inspector Generals of various agencies. So this situation could play out in various ways, and it could be a lengthy process.
Of course, all persons are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. That said, between the removal of church financial records and the fact that Beth Abrahamson both made out checks and signed them — including to relatives — the allegations we have heard are deeply troubling. We also are told that when the current rector asked questions, Ms Abrahamson allegedly told her that it was not her place to ask questions. That varies from both the law, which imposes a fiduciary duty on all involved, and church canons, which expressly hold clergy responsible for safeguarding church assets.
IOW, if I were Jeff Piatt or Beth Abrahamson, I would be sweating bullets right now.
If the allegations are true, I hope Piatt and Abrahamson rot in jail. Their bullying of the parish and its priest, possibly to cover up their misconduct, is appalling and they deserve to be held fully accountable.
Howdy Stinkbomb. To your point, it was not that long ago that Piatt was telling folks he was not coming back until Pastor Jill was out. Now he’s running around with his “let us in,” signs and rhetoric.
Like Ginny Bartlett, he can’t even get his story straight. Typical.
Piatt also appears to have backed himself into a corner. If he continues to protest, and a judge finds him guilty of money laundering, etc., the court is going to throw the book at him and Beth Abrahamson over the removal of church financial records and the protests themselves.
If he stops protesting, it’s going to look like a tacit admission of guilt.
What’s really sad is that so many of the people pulled into this mess do not appear to be thinking for themselves, even as we see the childish social aggression and manipulative behavior of Ginny Bartlett and others.
Again, we reiterate that these are only allegations, and there has been no finding of guilt by a court of competent jurisdiction.
Gotcha. They were allegedly using the church as a shield to avoid paying their own personal taxes over what sound like a span of a decade.
Yeah. You can’t do that. Despite what people here the IRS and other administrations are very understanding about mistakes, ethical or administrative. You have to really be doing some serious things over a span of a long time to get them to go after you.