- Associated Press - Friday, October 24, 2014

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - An Oregon pastor and his wife have been convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government after declining to pay taxes for many years.

A federal jury returned the verdict Thursday against Ronald and Dorothea Joling of Coquille, who prosecutors say owe the government more than $1 million in back taxes and penalties. They are scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 11.

Ronald Joling, 71, testified during the six-day trial that he stopped paying income taxes in the early 1990s after years of study led him to conclude that tax laws do not apply to him. He and his wife at one point tried to revoke their U.S. citizenship and have been associated with the “sovereign citizen” movement.

Joling’s attorney told the jury his client did not willingly break the law but instead acted in “good faith” when he stopped filing tax returns.

Dorothea Joling’s defense was that she had no say in the decision to stop paying taxes. Her attorney said that she took a marriage vow to serve as an obedient wife and that her husband makes the major decisions.

The jury acquitted her on a separate charge of tax evasion while convicting her husband of that crime.

Prosecutors said the couple intentionally broke the law because they disagree with it and kept their money in order to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on property purchases. The Jolings own multiple properties in Coos and Linn counties, including a motel and a diner, The Register-Guard newspaper reported (http://is.gd/rq7bJc ).

Prosecutors said the Jolings used several schemes to hide their assets from authorities, including setting up trusts into which they transferred property titles; opening and using bank accounts in those trusts’ names; filing a bankruptcy petition to stop collection efforts; and depositing more than $110,000 into a “warehouse bank” in an attempt to hide the money.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, http://www.registerguard.com

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