- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Robert W. Main amassed nearly $30 million through a series of shrewd real estate investments and what he calls a pathological compulsion to save money.

But citing his hopes for a “Scrooge-like transformation of my miserliness,” the economist and onetime Department of Labor employee recently told a judge he wants to spend the rest of his life giving his money away.

Main, 62, disclosed his plans in federal court in Alexandria last week, as he and his attorney pleaded with a judge not to send him to prison for failing to pay more than a half-million dollars in taxes.

Main was sentenced to a year and day in prison on Friday. Prosecutors wanted at least two years incarceration, and Main had hoped for probation or home confinement.

But more remarkable than the felony tax case against Main is a 12-page legal filing in which defense attorney James C. Clark detailed how his secretive millionaire client has begun disposing of a personal fortune.

Despite Main’s wealth, he continues living in the same house he’s had since 1978, which he shares with two boarders who pay him rent, according to the pleading. A probation office report called the home “unkempt,” and Mr. Clark said his client lives a “very humble lifestyle.”

His client’s real sin, Mr. Clark said, is the “pathological hoarding of money to no apparent purpose.”

The defense attorney also said the tax case coupled with his client’s “advancing years” have brought about an “awakening” for Main, who has paid the IRS more than $800,000 in back taxes and penalties to settle his debts.

Mr. Main persists in his position that he has no real need and takes no particular pleasure in expending money upon himself,” Mr. Clark said. “It is Mr. Main’s intention, through his financial advisers, to over the remainder of his life divest himself of the real property that he has acquired. …”

Main, who recently gave $75,000 to the T.C. Williams High School’s baseball booster club, said in an interview after his sentencing that his charitable plans are on hold as he gets his business affairs in order before going to prison.

Prosecutors had sought at least two years in prison for Main for failing to report more than $1.6 million in rental income from 2001 to 2004. The investigation began after IRS investigators learned of cash deposits into Main’s money market account of just less than $10,000.01, the amount that triggers the filing of a currency transaction report with IRS.

Mr. Clark said Main’s plan to give away his money wasn’t aimed at persuading U.S. District Court Judge Claude M. Hilton to keep his client out of prison, calling the notion “kind of silly.”

“I can’t imagine a more unusual case or a more unusual defendant in a criminal sentencing,” he said.

Mike Tackett, president of T.C. Williams’ baseball booster club, said he doesn’t care what motivated Main. He’s just thankful for the donation. He said the group plans to use some of the money to buy a new scoreboard and is deciding what to do with the rest.

“You want to spread this money as far and as wide as possible,” Mr. Tackett said.