Midland businessman sentenced to prison, to pay more than $12M in restitution

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Aug. 11—MIDLAND — On Tuesday, a Midland man was sentenced to 24 months in prison for failure to pay over employment taxes, a press release detailed.

According to court documents, Thomas Valdez Rodriguez, 45, was the owner of both Tom-E-Lee Trucking and Tom-E-Lee Industries. From 2012 through 2018, Rodriguez failed to pay employment taxes withheld from the employees of his trucking company.

Also from 2015 to 2018, Rodriguez failed to pay the employment taxes withheld from the employees of his industry company. In addition, Rodriguez failed to pay personal income taxes since 2011. Rodriguez caused a total tax harm of $12,714,214.42 in unpaid payroll taxes for both companies and unpaid personal income taxes.

Rodriguez used some of the unpaid tax money for season tickets on the 50-yard line at Dallas Cowboys football games and chartered jets to take him and friends to the those games. He also purchased a new residence for more than $2 million.

On Jan. 12, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to two counts of willful failure to account for and pay over federal withholding taxes. In addition to his prison sentence, Rodriguez was ordered to pay $12,714,214.42 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. He paid $1 million of that right before his sentencing.

"This sentence serves as a reckoning for a defendant that deliberately evaded paying federal payroll taxes, cheating the tax system, his employees, and in the end, all American taxpayers," U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff stated in the press release. "Here we had a business owner who withheld money from his employees' pay and rather than paying the employment taxes as he was trusted to do, he turned those funds into a personal piggy bank to fuel whatever he desired in his extravagant lifestyle."

"The collection and payment of employment taxes by business owners on behalf of their employees is a cornerstone of our country's voluntary tax system. Thomas Rodriguez's failure to pay over withheld employment taxes to the IRS is a serious criminal offense," IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Ramsey E. Covington of the Houston Field Office stated in the press release. "Additionally, Rodriguez spent the millions in unpaid employment taxes on himself, funding his lavish lifestyle and burgeoning business. These actions not only harmed his employees' future Social Security and Medicare benefits, he was also stealing from all honest taxpayers and the United States Treasury. IRS-CI will continue to track down business owners and payroll professionals who, like Rodriguez, use their employees' withheld employment taxes for their own personal gain."

IRS-CI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandi Young prosecuted the case.