Former Idaho Rep. Phil Hart may face criminal charges in tax, bankruptcy case

The Spokesman-Review’s Betsy Russell writes in a Sunday blog post that “federal authorities may be laying the groundwork for criminal charges” against former Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. A story by Russell also appeared in Sunday’s print edition.

Hart is a tax protestor who owes the IRS around $500,000 and the Idaho State Tax Commission about $53,000 after having quit filing income tax returns in 1996.

He served four terms in the Idaho House but the weight of repeated scandal — he also illegally cut down trees from state school endowment land and never satisfied a $23,000 judgment — helped now-Rep. Ed Morse, R-Hayden, defeat Hart in the May 2012 GOP primary. Morse won the four-way race with 35 percent to Hart’s 31 percent, by a margin of 238 votes.

Russell, who has chronicled Hart’s missteps for years, relies on bankruptcy court documents to suggest Hart may face criminal charges. Federal officials charge that Hart lied under oath, concealed or destroyed records and tried to “hinder, delay or defraud his creditors,” including the IRS.

Bankruptcy trustees, Russell reports, must refer suspected crimes to U.S. attorneys for possible prosecution; in 2012, 2,120 cases were referred, with false statements and concealment of assets among the top five crimes charges.

Hart’s lawyer and a spokesman for the bankruptcy trustee program declined comment.

 

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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