- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 1, 2003

RICHMOND — City Councilman Sa’ad El-Amin admitted yesterday that he failed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal taxes and had refused to cooperate with an Internal Revenue Service investigation.

El-Amin pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to conspiracy to defraud the federal government. Eighteen additional counts of tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy were dismissed as part of a plea bargain.

Federal prosecutors recommended a three-year prison sentence. Sentencing was set for Oct. 17.

“This case sends a message and a warning to those who hold public office: No one is above the law,” U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty said at a news conference after El-Amin’s brief court appearance.

In court, El-Amin answered a series of questions from Judge Henry Hudson, affirming that he understood the charge and was entering the plea voluntarily.

“You want to take responsibility for what you’ve done? That’s the bottom line?” Judge Hudson asked.

“That’s the bottom line,” said El-Amin.

El-Amin, one of the most combative members on a City Council known for its often boisterous meetings, told reporters after the hearing that he resigned earlier yesterday. As a felon, El-Amin is barred from holding public office.

El-Amin, who holds a law degree and master’s degree in economics from Yale University, was elected to the Richmond City Council in 1998. He said he would have no further comment until his sentencing.

The plea agreement also recommends a sentence of one year’s home confinement for El-Amin’s wife, Beverly D. Crawford. She has already pleaded guilty to the same felony charge.

Mr. McNulty said prosecutors recommended a considerably lighter sentence for Crawford because she cooperated with their investigation. He said the recommended sentences for El-Amin and Crawford were “a good resolution” to the case.

Judge Hudson emphasized that he was not bound by the terms of the plea agreement, although he told El-Amin “they appear reasonable to me at this point.”

Federal prosecutors said El-Amin and Crawford failed to pay most of the federal taxes they owed from 1991 through 2002. Mr. McNulty said El-Amin mingled personal and business funds with client accounts and operated largely with cash to stymie IRS collection efforts. He said the IRS sent El-Amin more than 40 letters and five lien notices, and tried to meet with him about 10 times over a period of several years.

The IRS filed assessment and liens totaling more than $700,000 against the two for unpaid personal income tax, corporate income tax, employment tax, and penalties and interest.

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