Sandoval indicted on state tax charges

CONEJOS — Conejos County Commissioner John Sandoval has been indicted by a Statewide Grand Jury on three tax charges and one count of theft over $5,000.

Sandoval, 52, has been a member of the Conejos Board of County Commissioners for more than 18 years. The charges relate to a period between June 7, 2012 and Oct. 15, 2016.

He has not been arraigned and has filed a motion for dismissal when he appears Oct. 19 in U.S. District Court, Denver.

Count one alleges Sandoval evaded taxes administered by the Colorado Department of Revenue.

The indictment states that evidence was developed by the Statewide Grand Jury alleging Sandoval earned additional income in the State of Colorado during the 2012-2015 tax years that was not accounted for and/or declared when his state income tax returns were prepared and filed under the penalties of perjury with the Colorado Department of Revenue (CDOR).

Count two alleges Sandoval failed to collect, account for or pay over any tax authorized by state statute.

The indictment alleges the sources of Sandoval’s additional, undeclared income included, but was not limited to, various checks that he received from hay baling work or hay sales he conducted, as well as from a restaurant in Antonito he owned and operated and, as owner, was required to collect and remit state and local sales tax to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Sandoval no longer owns the business, but leases it to a marijuana distributor.

Further evidence reported by the grand jury alleged Sandoval did not fully collect, account for and/or remit the proper sales tax from his restaurant, based on the record of transactions that was obtained by the Grand Jury, permitting a comparison of the actual sales that occurred at his business versus what was reported.

For example, investigators identified a bank account for the business owned and operated by Sandoval that showed bank deposits greater than the amounts listed as gross sales on the reported sales tax returns.

Count three alleges Sandoval filed a false tax return and count four alleges theft.

The indictment states, in the end, a reasonable inference can be drawn that sales tax funds, in excess of $5,000 but less than $20,000, from the 2012, 2013, 2014 and

2015 tax years, that were supposed to be held in trust by Sandoval and payable to both the State of Colorado and the town of Antonito were taken and converted by Sandoval instead of being remitted to the designated recipients.

Sandoval points to political opposition as the reason for the investigation that led to the indictments.

During the summer of 2017, he heard that the Colorado Attorney General was investigating the same allegations and, after going through more than 30,000 pages of documents, Sandoval said, cleared him of any and all wrongdoing as a county commissioner.

So the next target was his personal life, Sandoval alleged.

“Part of the investigation included looking at my tax records. I previously owned a restaurant and bar that employed 25 of our county citizens and the state disagrees with amounts declared between 2012 and 2017.”

He said some years, investigators said he did not pay enough taxes and paid too much in others.

“For a five-year period, the state believes there is less than $20,000 owed in unreported and underreported income. I immediately offered to write a check in that amount and dispute the accuracy of their finding by sitting down with the Colorado Dept. of Revenue, my accountant and my tax preparer and look at any and all documents related to this matter,” Sandoval said. “The state refused.”

“My same offer remains. I will write a check to the state today. Instead, the attorney general’s office has pursued a criminal case against me — something I remain committed to fighting.”

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