Judge drops travel restrictions on St. Croix radio magnate accused of tax evasion


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ST. CROIX - Federal Magistrate Judge George Cannon has granted a motion filed on behalf of radio station owner Jonathan Cohen to modify his conditions of release that initially restricted him from traveling outside of the territory without the court's permission while he awaits trial in connection with a tax evasion case filed against him last month.

Attorney Mark Eckard filed the motion asking the court to relax the travel restrictions, saying that Cohen's mother is chronically ill, which often requires him to travel to the states on short notice and that he frequently travels for business reasons and for other personal reasons.

According to the motion, Assistant Attorney General Denise George Counts had no objection to the modifications as long as Cohen would agree to sign a waiver of extradition, which he did.

Cohen, owner of JKC Communications, was arrested April 23 on federal charges of willful failure to file tax returns, provide information or pay taxes during the course of seven years.

He was arraigned and formally charged with the crimes on Monday and entered a not-guilty plea to each of the 21 counts against him, which each carry a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

He was granted a jury trial, which tentatively has been set for 9 a.m. June 23 before Chief District Judge Wilma Lewis. Lewis has scheduled a calendar call for May 15 in her chambers, during which discovery deadlines and motion scheduling will be detailed.

According to the criminal complaint and supporting affidavit filed in District Court by Internal Revenue Bureau special agent Janine Claxton, Cohen failed to file corporate and individual income tax returns between 2004 and 2010 on behalf of himself and his corporations - Radio 95; Clara Communications of the V.I.; and JKC Communications, which is the parent company of Isle 95, Sunny 99.5 FM, Mongoose 104.9FM, AM 970-WSTX and WSTX FM-100 radio stations.

"BIR records reflect that there were no individual or corporate income tax returns filed for or on behalf of Cohen or the corporations since 2001," the document stated.

According to the affidavit, Cohen, who is the sole owner of the corporations, had his tax returns prepared by his accountant, but he never filed them.

The documents show that he realized a gross income averaging $1.8 million annually between 2004 and 2010 and that Cohen's net taxable income for that same time period averaged $220,000 per year. Based on his net taxable income from the corporation, his personal income tax returns resulted in him owing anywhere from $31,000 to $122,000 annually between 2004 and 2010, a total of just more than $373,000, according to court documents.

Claxton said based on her investigations, Cohen also failed to file Gross Receipts Tax returns for every year between 2004 and 2010, so the Internal Revenue Bureau was not aware of the Gross Receipts for Clara Communications, JKC Communications and Radio 95, the report stated.

As a result of the investigation, Claxton said she determined that the Gross Receipts Tax due for all the years combined equals more than $514,000.

Cohen was released from the custody of the U.S. Marshal's Office on the same day of his arrest, and terms of Cohen's release required that he not leave St. Croix without written permission of the court.

However, given the short notice that is involved in his frequent travel outside of the territory, he asked to be able to do so without written court permission but upon telephonic notice to his probation officer.

Eckard said Cohen already has given up the ability to travel internationally by surrendering his passport, and his wife has secured his $50,000 bail by posting their family home.

In a joint statement issued at the time of Cohen's arrest, V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer and Internal Revenue Bureau Director Claudette Watson Anderson said the arrest is one of many more to come from their agencies as a result of work being done by the Tax Collection Task Force, which is a joint operation of their agencies.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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