Third Northwest pilot convicted of tax evasion

Posted: Friday, February 21, 2003

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A Northwest Airlines pilot who claimed Alaska residency has been convicted of felony tax evasion.

A Hennepin County jury found Randall Enyeart guilty Wednesday on six counts of tax evasion, two counts of filing false or fraudulent returns and one count of failure to pay about $1,500 in Minnesota sales tax when he bought a new sport-utility vehicle.

Prosecutors said he evaded more than $59,000 in Minnesota income taxes while he claimed residency in Alaska.

Two other pilots -- Geoffrey Hickman and Rodney Alan Matmiller -- have been convicted of tax evasion since the investigation began. Four other pilots are awaiting trial.

Enyeart, 50, of Excelsior, is scheduled to be sentenced April 2. He faces up to 21 months in prison.

Bob Sicoli, Enyeart's attorney, said his client likely will appeal. The case should not have been criminally prosecuted, Sicoli said.

''The government is cavalierly prosecuting these pilots under a statute that is confusing and vague and does not comport with the federal statute,'' he said.

Minnesota Department of Revenue regulations cite 26 factors that are considered when determining residency, Sicoli said.

''I don't think juries really understand that or care to apply the law,'' he said.

He said the government should use civil actions to recover unpaid taxes rather than pursue criminal convictions.

The Hennepin County attorney's staff is handling all of the cases, even though the pilots are being prosecuted in different counties.

Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar said Enyeart owned and lived in homes in Excelsior and Minnetonka.

''Jurors in Minnesota understand the difference between an inadvertent mistake and a deliberate rip-off,'' she said.

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