News blog for Seattle's Fremont neighborhood

 

Aurora Motels: Guilty of Criminal Tax Evasion

April 28th, 2010 by Athima Chansanchai

Four Aurora Avenue motels – which the Seattle City Attorney’s Office say consistently accounts for a majority of police calls out of the “roughly 26 low-cost motels” along that corridor – have, as corporations, entered guilty pleas on Tuesday to criminal tax violations in Seattle Municipal Court. Under the terms of the plea agreements, two motels, the Isabella and Italia, will be sold within four months or leased to non-profit groups for use as low-income housing or emergency shelter.

Neighbors have long complained about the criminal activity they say goes on at all four of the motels, which also include Seattle Motor Inn, Fremont Inn (formerly The Thunderbird, pictured below) and Wallingford Inn, along with the Italia and Isabella.

Fremont Inn (formerly Thunderbird)

The original 180 criminal counts – which were filed last summer – include failure to file tax returns and failure to pay city-owed business tax. (At the time, charges included a fifth motel, The Seattle Motor Inn, which closed in December.)

From the City Attorney’s Office:

The unusual and creative disposition of the original 180 criminal counts of failure to file tax returns and failure to pay city-owed business tax was the result of a negotiated settlement between the City Attorney’s Office and the defendants, Dean and Jill Inman, and the four motel corporations that the Inmans control as corporate officers.

“This result is a win for residents along the Aurora Avenue corridor, demonstrating what’s possible when neighbors collaborate with SPD and this office to take back the streets,” City Attorney Peter S. Holmes said.

According to the agreement that Municipal Court Judge George W. Holifield approved, each of the four motel corporations pleaded guilty to five counts of failure to file tax returns (for 20 counts total). Although the prosecution requested suspended sentences with financial penalties, the Court imposed two-year deferred sentences instead, including $1,000 in court costs. The court deferred imposition of the maximum penalty of $25,000 for each case on condition the corporations not commit future criminal violations and pay court costs.

In addition, the Italia & Isabella Corporation agreed to sell or close these two motels within 120 days. If not sold, all residential use must cease unless the motels are leased to a non-profit organization and used for low-income housing or emergency shelter. The Inmans agreed with the court’s authority to impose the sale or closure condition.

Dean Inman pleaded guilty to one count of failure to file tax returns. His sentence: a two-year deferred sentence – on condition he commit no criminal law violations. He and his wife, Jill, also agreed to the sale or closure of the two motels. Charges against her will be dismissed if she complies with the agreement, that she refrains from committing criminal law violations.

City Attorney Holmes is keeping an eye on the Inmans, warning them that if they violate the conditions of their sentences, the more than $100,000 in fines that the court deferred could be revoked and jail imposed on the motels’ owners.

“We’re hopeful these cases have a lasting impact and won’t result in further legal action,” he said.

By filing and paying their taxes to the city (more than $4,000), all of the defendants have complied with the law and with city license requirements.

In the statement released by the City Attorney’s Office, the assistant city attorney who handled the case, Edward McKenna, said:

“Dismissing criminal charges against the Inmans and their corporations wasn’t going to happen. We were fully prepared to litigate all 180 counts until the Inmans closed the Seattle Motor Inn and then agreed to close the Italia and Isabella motels.”

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