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Magistrate Rejects Government Settlement with Cohen

The V.I. government negotiated another settlement plan so Jonathan Cohen can stay out of jail and pay a tax debt, but U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge George W. Cannon did not agree. At a Friday morning hearing, Cannon disagreed with the nine-year period that the government was giving Cohen to pay off the debt and the judge cited the financial difficulties the government of Virgin Islands was having because of the lack of tax revenue.

The case against Cohen began in April 2014 when it was reported that Cohen, sole owner of JKC Communications, Clara Communications and Radio 95, had failed to pay corporate and individual taxes. He was charged with failure to file taxes from 2004 through 2010.

The government alleged that Cohen and his corporations had collective gross income in excess of $10 million during the period of time and failed to pay taxes owed to the Virgin Islands government. The government alleged Cohen also failed to file gross receipts tax returns for the same period.

Cohen pled guilty in a plea deal, but the deal ran into trouble when attorneys general changed under Gov. Kenneth Mapp.

Raymond James, assistant attorney general, represented the government at the Friday hearing. He said that Cohen had agreed to pay $32,000 that morning and had already paid $53,000.

Judge Cannon questioned how those amounts related to the $890,000 originally determined to be owed and was supposed to be paid within five years.

James said that a payment schedule running more than nine years would allow Cohen to pay the additional $812,000. James said Cohen agreed to pay $5,000 each month over the nine-year period and one lump sum each year of $30,000.

Cannon said, “It is not acceptable. It is going to have to be renegotiated.” He said it was not his “desire” to have Cohen go to jail, but indicated it would be more appropriate if Cohen paid off his debt within the three and a half years he has left on probation.

“Mr. Cohen will be held accountable for payment or lack of payment of the debt,” Cannon said.

Another hearing date was set for Feb. 27 at 9 a.m.

Both James and Scott McChain, the attorney representing Cohen, declined comments after the hearing.

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