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Former Dickinson businessman sentenced for tax fraud

DICKINSON, N.D. A former leader of a Dickinson business has been ordered to serve 37 months in a federal prison for tax fraud. After being accused of using money from his family's business to pay for personal costs such as an African vacation, a ...

DICKINSON, N.D.

A former leader of a Dickinson business has been ordered to serve 37 months in a federal prison for tax fraud.

After being accused of using money from his family's business to pay for personal costs such as an African vacation, a new home and medical bills, former Vice President and Director of Fisher Sand & Gravel Co., Mike Fisher, pleaded guilty to nine tax-related felonies last May, including a conspiracy charge, four charges of helping to file false corporate tax returns and four charges of filing his own falsified income taxes, according to the Associated Press.

Fisher admitted his personal expenses totaled about $1.2 million from 2001 to 2004.

"I am very sorry for the whole thing," Fisher told U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland during his sentencing hearing in Bismarck, Monday afternoon.

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Prosecutors said unpaid taxes totaled about $630,000.

"Mike Fisher has had no involvement with the company for over 15 months," said Tim Priebe, general counsel for Fisher Sand & Gravel, in an e-mail Monday afternoon.

Fisher's lawyers, James Hovey and Jon Jensen, asked the judge to sentence Fisher to one year home confinement and three years probation, but Hovland handed down a different sentence.

Hovland said federal sentencing guidelines recommend a 37 to 46 month prison term and the judge gave Fisher just that, 37 months in a federal prison.

The judge said about a year or so could be cut from Fisher's sentence if he underwent a prison alcoholism treatment.

His sentence also includes two years supervised probation, order to pay about $308,000 in restitution, a $90,000 fine and a $900 special assessment fee, said Beth Lang, speaking on behalf of Hovland.

The company will pay the remaining $320,000 of the tax bill, according to the AP.

"The sentencing does not involve Fisher Sand & Gravel Co.," Priebe said in an e-mail. "The company fully cooperated in the investigation and entered into an agreement with the government last spring by which Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. made complete restitution for all corporate tax losses."

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Fisher Sand & Gravel's Bismarck-based attorney, Tom Dickson, said Monday the money had been paid and the audits completed, according to the AP.

Hovland said he would recommend Fisher serve his sentence at a minimum-security federal prison camp in Duluth, Minn., according to the AP.

Fisher must report to law enforcement by Feb. 26 at 1 p.m.

Hovland said the Fisher family ignored years of IRS warnings, eventually causing top executives to tumble, including Amiel Schaff and Clyde Frank who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit tax fraud.

Hovland said IRS audits dating to the 1970s raised questions as to how the company handled payments of family member's personal expenses, according to the AP.

Schaff and Frank were sentenced to 12 months probation along with home confinement.

"The company has made significant structural changes as well as installing corporate policies to improve our ability to serve our customers and meet the needs of our valued employees," Priebe said in an e-mail.

The Dickinson Press and the Herald are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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