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Colorado Man Sentenced After Creating Fake Church to Evade Taxes

A Colorado man was sentenced to one year and one day in prison on July 8 after creating a fake church and naming himself pastor so that he could evade taxes.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado said Trenton Switzer, of Gypsum, Colo., also was ordered to pay $241,964.71 in restitution. Switzer had pleaded guilty to submitting a false tax return in April. 

According to the plea agreement, Switzer, who operated a sales training business, falsely claimed that he had made a $250,000 charitable contribution to the “Church of Divine Sovereignty” after incorporating the “church” and opening a bank account in its name. 

He deposited $250,000 in the bank account, used the money to buy Bitcoin, then filed documents to dissolve the fake church 24 hours after forming it, the Internal Revenue Service said

Switzer then presented a letter signed by himself as “pastor” of the fake church to his tax preparer, claiming the $250,000 was a charitable contribution. 

Despite the tax preparer’s warning that the “church” did not qualify as a charitable organization, Switzer signed and personally filed a 2015 U.S. Federal Individual Tax Return claiming the deduction.

“Mr. Switzer’s claim to be the pastor of a fake church he created to evade his taxes landed him in a real prison,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Matt Kirsch. “My office will continue to aggressively pursue people who cheat on their taxes.”

This matter was investigated by the IRS’s criminal investigation unit and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jeremy Chaffin.

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Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.