MISSOULA – The co-owner of H&H Earthworks, Inc., was sentenced today to 30 months in prison after admitting to failing to pay the IRS more than $2.8 million in employee and employer taxes , and instead spent some of the money on personal expenses, including home renovations and recreational vehicles, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
Melissa Lynne Horner, 43, of Bozeman, pleaded guilty in April to failing to account for and faithfully pay source deductions and FICA taxes, a felony, and failing to file quarterly employer and paying taxes, a crime.
U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided. Judge Christensen also ordered Horner to serve three years of supervised release after his incarceration and to pay restitution of $2,878,522. Horner was allowed to report to the Bureau of Prisons.
“Those who evade our federal and state tax laws by defrauding American taxpayers of their hard-earned money, especially those who are entitled to their Medicare and Social Security payments, will be held accountable for their criminal conduct. Horner’s sentence shows that those who fraudulently refuse to pay the taxes that every employer is required to pay will expose themselves to criminal prosecution by our office. The people of our state and our nation deserve nothing less,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.
“Business owners have an obligation to their employees and the IRS to pay payroll taxes and payroll taxes,” said Andy Tsui, special agent in charge of the IRS Criminal Investigations Field Office in Denver. . “By withholding these taxes for her personal gain, Ms. Horner not only defrauded the federal government, but all honest taxpayers, and today’s conviction is a direct reflection of the gravity of her crime.”
In court documents filed in the case, the government alleged that H&H Earthworks, Inc. was a Belgrade-based family business site development company and that Horner managed the company’s finances. The company employed between 20 and 60 people from 2014 to 2019.
For about five years, from March 2014 to 2019, Horner asked Earthworks to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses for his personal benefit instead of paying IRS payroll tax that was to be withheld from the checks. Earthworks employee payroll. Horner used the money for personal expenses, including more than $100,000 for motorsports vehicles, $90,000 for a land title company in Bozeman, at least $50,000 for home renovations and $20,000 for a camper.
The government further alleged that Horner withdrew Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes from salaries paid to Earthworks employees and failed to pay trust fund taxes to the IRS. Horner also did not pay Earthworks’ share of FICA taxes (federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes). Additionally, Horner did not file Quarterly Forms 941, the employer’s quarterly federal income tax returns, until he was notified of the criminal investigation. Horner knew she was required to pay employment taxes and complete quarterly 941 forms and deliberately chose to violate that requirement.
Assistant United States Attorney Karla E. Painter prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation.