A former West Virginia coal broker pleaded guilty Tuesday in North Carolina to attempting to obstruct an IRS audit and criminal investigation.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Vondie Brunty owned and operated West Star Management Inc. (WSM), a company that, from 2005 to 2015, co-owned a coal brokerage business.
Despite earning taxable income in 2010 through 2013, Brunty did not file individual income tax returns for those years, nor did he report income earned by WSM. Brunty late-filed his 2014 and 2015 tax returns in 2021, after learning he was under criminal investigation by the IRS.
Officials say those returns, however, were false, omitting $240,000 and $108,000 of income, respectively. Additionally, on at least four occasions between 2015 and 2020, in an effort to conceal his income, Brunty provided a false social security number to companies that paid him, causing the companies to report inaccurate information to the IRS.
When the IRS civilly audited Brunty’s unfiled personal and corporate returns, he knowingly made multiple false and misleading statements, claiming that he had paid an accountant to prepare WSM’s returns and that he never owed any taxes.
Similarly, Brunty falsely told IRS criminal investigators that WSM’s tax returns had been prepared each year. In total, Brunty caused a tax loss to the IRS of $204,231.
Brunty faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division made the announcement.