Tax consultant could face probation revocation in theft case

Mar. 25—A former consultant who provided professional services to form local sales tax districts in Joplin and Neosho is facing more court proceedings on his sentence for taking money from two of the districts.

Darrell Gross, of Republic, was granted a suspended seven-year prison sentence and placed on probation for five years on March 29, 2021. He pleaded guilty to multiple charges in two cases of stealing or misappropriation of funds. A condition of parole was that he pay $203,128.94 in restitution to the two taxing districts.

But now he is facing the possibility of revocation of the probation.

Newton County Prosecutor Will Lynch filed a motion for revocation, citing a failure by Gross to continue paying the ordered restitution. Gross, who lives in Greene County, was arrested Feb. 17 in Greene County on a probation violation warrant. Bond for the 68-year-old man was set at $1,000 cash.

Gross was arraigned Feb. 27 in Newton County Circuit Court and ordered to be appointed representation by a public defender.

An attorney has requested that the judge consider a bond reduction. A hearing is scheduled Monday for a status check on the case.

Judge Gregory Stremel, who sentenced Gross in the initial case, is now presiding over the bond revocation proceedings.

Gross wrote a letter to the court in May 2022 stating that he had been behind on the payments but had caught up.

"Due to COVID delays and the size of the Hope Valley restitution set for December of this year, I'm trying to buy life insurance to cover it." There was no further explanation in the letter.

Gross pleaded guilty to charges in two cases related to taking sales tax funds collected for the Hope Valley Community Improvement District in Joplin and the Big Spring Plaza CID in Neosho.

Hope Valley is located at the northwest corner of 44th Street and Range Line Road where the money was being collected to be used toward about $17 million in future costs to mitigate creeks and excess water runoff. There is commercial development planned for that property.

A former board appointed to oversee collections for the Hope Valley CID district allowed Gross, as part of his duties as a consultant in forming the district, to manage the revenue. He diverted close to $200,000 for his own use, according to an investigation conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Since the diversion was discovered, a new board appointed for the district had collected about $148,000 as of the end of 2020.

Gross also was charged with taking more than $13,000 from the Big Spring Plaza tax district in Neosho. He was hired in 2012 by the plaza governing board to provide services to help organize and manage the district. The CID funding was to be used to build a road into a strip mall in the area of U.S. Highway 71 and Missouri Highway 86.

In January 2016, Gross moved the CID money from a Neosho bank account to an account in his name in Springfield. After the diversion was discovered, he was charged with forgery in Greene County in connection with the diversion of funds to the Springfield bank account by forging the signatures of CID board members on bank documents.

He was sentenced Jan. 29 in Greene County to a seven-year suspended sentence but with no restitution required because it will be collected in Newton County.

Gross pleaded guilty to the charges in 2019. His sentencing was delayed at that time because he was ill and was a patient in a long-term recovery hospital for several months.

At the sentencing hearing in 2021, the judge asked Gross if he had resources to be able to repay that large a sum.

"I have three or four sources I've got to work on, yes," Gross replied. The judge asked how. Gross said he was expecting commissions from two real estate deals he is helping with and that he has family sources.

Asked if he could pay by Dec. 1, Gross told the judge, "I think so, yes." Gross was allowed to make payments toward the restitution amount.

The judge told Gross that if he violates the law again or does not make payment toward the restitution, he would revoke the probation and order the prison sentence carried out.

"I do expect you to do this," Stremel said of the repayment, adding that if the majority is paid by then he would consider an extension to get the rest paid.

The amount of restitution that has been made was not available Friday.