Former state Rep. Erik Fresen sentenced to 60 days in jail for failing to file tax return in 2011 for $270,136 dollars in income.
An intermittent sentence was intended to keep him earning some income so he could pay his tax penalties. He will have to serve 15 days in jail per month until Feb. 2018; beginning on November 17th.
Robert Scola, U.S. District Judge, said he wanted Former State Rep. Erik Fresen to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in jail so that every holiday for the rest of his life he thinks back to that.
Fresen’s mother, who sat two rows behind him in court, silently cried while Fresen’s wife and three sisters used tissues to dry tears from their eyes.
Fresen faced up to a year in prison sentence. However, His defense attorneys requested probation, while prosecutors asked for a 12 months sentence (6 months of house arrest, and 6 months in jail).
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola said he couldn’t be that soft because though Fresen was only charged for his missing 2011 return, he hadn’t properly reported his income to the Internal Revenue Service for 9 years (2007-2016) including eight years as a Republican lawmaker in the Florida House. Also, Scola mentioned that by making this decision he would be sending a message to any other elected leaders who might consider breaking the law.
“This was a serious offense committed by a knowledgeable and sophisticated individual who knew what he was doing,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Harold Schimkat told the judge.
Fresen was once the influential House education budget chief. He has a bachelor’s degree in finance and international relations from Florida State University and spent two years in law school.
When Scola asked why he had failed to file tax returns for so long, Fresen said he wished he had one, and that he didn’t have a compelling explanation but that he assured that his inexplicable, inexcusable chapter of his life would never be repeated.
According to the government, Fresen pleaded guilty in April, when he owed at least $100,000 in back taxes, excluding fines and penalties. He has since taken out a personal loan backed by friends and family, Neiman wrote, and repaid the debt.
“This has ended his public service career,” former Miami U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez told the judge.
Unlike with a felony, the misdemeanor conviction would not prevent Fresen from seeking public office again. In total, Fresen underpaid his taxes by about $214,000 from about $75,000 in annual income earned as a consultant for his company, Neighborhood Strategies. He also made about $150,000 a year from Civica, a Miami architecture-design firm where he worked as a land-use consultant, and about $25,000 a year from the state of Florida for his part-time job as a lawmaker.
Fresen’s finances have been in disarray for a considerable length of time, and Jimenez pointed the finger at some of his client’s initial tax trouble on not knowing how to deal with a foreclosure that started in 2008. Fresen and his wife, Ethel, who quickly filed for personal bankruptcy last year, finally sold the Little Gables house — which was still in foreclosure — in March. They now live in a rental with their 12-year-old twin sons and 6-year-old daughter.
One of the reasons Fresen’s attorneys cited in asking for leniency: His children had not been told of the criminal charge against their father.
“This is a very serious offense that occurred over a very long period of time,” the judge said. “It was committed while he was a public servant whose salary was paid for by taxpayers. We can’t have a government that operates unless citizens pay their taxes.”