Sometimes a news story flies by so fast that it isn’t sufficiently appreciated, like a good meal wolfed down. That’s the case with the saga of Jonathan M. Wichman of Cave Springs, a young man with a federal prison sentence in his future.
The details of this story come from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Arkansas, which in January elicited a guilty plea from our hero — to income tax evasion. Considering his questionable choices in recent years, I will say Wichman made a wise decision to plead guilty even before he was indicted. That will help when it comes time for U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks of Fayetteville to sentence him.
This is an Opinion
Wichman is 35, or was at his plea hearing, so he was in his 20s when our story begins. From 2014 through 2020, he worked primarily as a general manager at various auto dealerships in northwest Arkansas. For all seven of those years, he failed to file income tax returns, federal or state.
In a news release, federal prosecutors said Wichman told IRS investigators that he actually prepared returns each year using TurboTax. But he never filed those returns because “the program showed he owed a large amount of taxes.” Wichman said he didn’t have money available to pay the taxes, so he just didn’t file the returns. Then he didn’t pay the taxes when the IRS prepared his returns for him and his wife and sent repeated notices.
He made a bad situation much, much worse in 2018. In October of that year, when he was working for McLarty Daniel, he accessed the payroll system and somehow fixed it so that no federal income taxes or other withholdings were withheld from his wages for the rest of that year, all of 2019 and part of 2020. He didn’t just fail to pay a tax balance due; he didn’t pay any taxes at all.
And he owed a lot, because this young man was making bank. In seven years, he earned $2.3 million, averaging more than $300,000 a year. In 2020, after changing locations, he made just shy of $500,000. I would be thrilled to pay every penny of tax due on a half-million dollars in a single year.
At the end of 2019 — aware that he had a problem and aware that he was not even having taxes withheld on his current income — Wichman hired a tax preparer to prepare returns for 2014-18. But he failed to tell this professional that the IRS had already done his taxes for those years and sent him bills. And when his tax preparer told him that he owed more than $150,000 and should pay what he could, Wichman came up with zip.
Where did all the money go? Well, before 2019 some of it was going into wheels. He was in the car business, after all. And he needed a motorcycle, naturally.
But in 2019 and after, his expenses ramped up, as spelled out in his plea agreement:
He moved cash totaling $935,820 in and out of six different casinos in just two years, between October 2019 and October 2021;
He bought a $75,000 Bentley that he traded in on a $77,000 Yukon Denali, which he sold for $87,000. Oh, and he bought an $80,000 Maserati and a travel trailer.
I’m not sure when the feds started breathing down his neck, but as recently as last March he paid $9,200 to Luxury Vacation Homes Fort Lauderdale.
Failing to face reality means he now owes $263,615 to the IRS, not including interest and penalties — plus state taxes, interest and penalties that the feds didn’t bother to add up. And he’s a convicted felon who is looking at up to five years in federal prison under the plea agreement worked out by his attorney, J. Christopher Harris of Rogers.