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|Jones scheduled for trial in March|
A former state senator who is accused of tax evasion will get his day in federal court in Monroe in the spring.
U.S. District Court Judge Robbie James will preside over the government's case against former Sen. Charles D. Jones, a Monroe attorney, beginning March 19, 2009.
A federal grand jury handed down a three-count indictment in January. The indictment said Jones filed false tax returns and evaded paying income taxes, dating to 1995. Federal prosecutors also contend that Jones intentionally understated his income in 1999 and 2000 to avoid paying federal income taxes.
Prosecutors allege Jones used a complex series of banking transactions to mask more than $750,000 in income over an eight-year period stretching from 1995 to 2003.
According to records on file with U.S. District Court in Monroe, Jones received a check topping $108,000 in July 1995 for legal fees and converted the check into a cashier's check and cash.
In March of 1999, Jones made a similar transaction of more than $550,000 in legal fees, court records say.
Jones made a third transaction for some $90,000 later in 1999, according to the court.
In the indictment, prosecutors said Jones made the transactions, "for the purpose of evading payment of taxes due and owing to the United States of America in excess of $190,000."
Prosecutors contend that Jones used the cashier's checks to guarantee certificates of deposit and to purchase property, including three lots in North Pointe Plantation, a subdivision in northern Ouachita Parish.
Jones also used the money to fund the construction of a new home on Bon Aire Drive, near the University of Louisiana – Monroe, according to prosecutors.
The indictment states that, beginning in February, 2002, Jones made some $300,000 in reimbursement payments to a "nominee," someone contracted for the purpose of keeping real estate transaction anonymous.
In August 2003, or following the completion of construction of his Bon Aire Drive home, Jones transferred ownership of the home from the nominee to his wife and himself, according to prosecutors.
Jones was arraigned on the federal charges on Feb. 29. After pleading not guilty, Jones was released without bond.
Jones is represented in the case by Mike Small, a noted defense attorney from Alexandria.
Small was unavailable for comment Wednesday. However, speaking with The Ouachita Citizen in February, Small described the government's case against Jones as "disappointing."
"I have represented Mr. Jones for some time in connection with the investigation which resulted in the indictment handed down today charging two counts of filing false tax returns and one count of tax evasion," Small said following the indictment. "Mr. Jones and I are obviously disappointed that the indictment was returned, but are confident that a fair jury, after hearing all the evidence and not just the prosecutor's version, will return verdicts of not guilty on all counts."
If convicted, Jones faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both, for each count.
An indictment is an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government's investigation was led by the Internal Revenue Service and is being prosecuted by assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Jarzabek and Mignonne Griffing, under the direction of U.S. Attorney Donald Washington.
An attorney, Jones served in the Legislature from 1976-2008. He spent a number of years in the House of Representatives before being elected to represent District 34 in the Senate in the 1990s. District 34 stretches from Monroe's south side to the Delta parishes along the Mississippi River from East Carroll to Concordia.
In his last term in the Senate, or from 2004-2008, Jones served as chairman of the Senate committee that oversees ethics legislation.
Throughout his years of public service, Jones came under fire for his and his family's dealings with organizations whose purpose was to help the poor. On more than occasion, Jones faced complaints before the state Ethics Board.