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.