Albemarle man pleads guilty to federal tax fraud

Fence Pro concealed more than $2 million in revenue

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

ALBEMARLE — During a federal court hearing in Winston-Salem, a Stanly County resident recently pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return.

Per a Jan. 3 press release from Sandra J. Hairston, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, Brantley Todd Forrest of Albemarle admitted his guilt on tax fraud charges.

Hairston made the announcement after United States District Court Judge William L. Osteen, Jr. accepted the plea.

Forrest’s charge has a potential maximum sentence of three years in federal prison, a period of supervised release of up to one year, and monetary penalties.

Sentencing will take place on April 30 in Greensboro. The Criminal Investigation division of the Internal Revenue Service will continue to investigate the case while Assistant U.S. Attorney Ashley Waid serves as its prosecutor.

Court documents alleged that Forrest withheld information from a tax return preparer regarding income related to his owned-and-operated business, Fence Pro of the Carolinas.

“Federal income tax compliance should be equally shared among all Americans,” said Donald “Trey” Eakins, special agent in charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Charlotte Field Office. “Conspiring to defraud the government by underreporting taxable income is unlawful. Mr. Forrest’s plea today serves as an important reminder that IRS CI is committed to bringing to justice those who dodge their federal income tax responsibilities.”

According to court-filed documents, Forrest concealed $2,068,864 in gross revenues from the Internal Revenue Service and his tax return preparer between 2017 and 2021, causing a tax loss of over $500,000.

Because the income that he reported on his returns was so low, he qualified for tax credits designed for low-income, working individuals and COVID relief payments.

Forrest’s tax fraud case through his family business arrives less than a year later than similar charges that were handed down to his family.

On April 5, 2023, Forrest’s father, Michael Todd Forrest, similarly pleaded guilty on tax fraud charges connected to The Forrest Fence Company, LLC, resulting in a tax loss of over $200,000.

Between 2017-2021, he directed customers to make checks payable to himself, where he would deposit the checks into a personal bank account instead of to the Forrest Fence business checking account; the checks were subsequently concealed from his tax return preparer.

“To attempt to evade taxes by hiding income and filing false returns, is a theft from the American public. It is a felony offense that carries severe consequences,” Eakins said of the elder Forrest’s charges in 2023. “The overarching principle of the IRS’s enforcement strategy is simply this: We protect the integrity of the tax system by ensuring everyone pays their fair share of tax.”