The Great Minnesota Tax Dodge

Meet 10 of Minnesota's most notorious state tax scofflaws

FUN FACT In August of 2000, Gendler purchased a home in Naples, Florida, for $55,000. The property is now valued at $363,764.

QUOTE "I don't remember him," says Sjoberg. "I bought the car through somebody else. I probably had it for five years."

 

Randy S. Miland
White Bear Lake, Minnesota

TAX STAT Owes $270,572.48 in income, provider, sales, and withholding taxes incurred between 1994 and 1998

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS In the '80s and '90s, Miland operated a chiropractic firm in Woodbury known as the Back and Neck Pain Clinic. In 1996, he began soliciting short-term loans from friends and patients. The money was supposedly going to be used to seed new Blockbuster Video franchises. Miland claimed that he had a personal connection with the corporation and could produce extravagant returns of 25 to 30 percent for investors in just three months. Between 1996 and 1998, according to a criminal complaint, he collected more than $1.2 million from at least 21 people. But instead of investing the money in video stores, Miland squandered it on his hedonistic lifestyle, heavy on strippers and booze. When disgruntled investors successfully sued him in court, he generally either ignored the judgments or wrote them bad checks. Barbara Benassi and Robert Harvey, for instance, got a default judgment of $277,671 against Miland in Washington County District Court, but were unable to collect on the debt. In October 1998, Miland was charged with five counts of theft by swindle. He eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to up to 45 months in prison. However, because he participated in Minnesota's "Challenger Incarceration Program," which emphasizes intense work and chemical dependency treatment, Miland ultimately served less than a year in prison.

FUN FACT In 1997, Miland and the Back and Neck Pain Clinic were sued by his former fiancée, Gina Benassi, in Washington County District Court. Miland responded by filing a counterclaim seeking return of the $24,000 engagement ring that he'd given her. In 2001, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ultimately declared Miland the ring's proper owner.

QUOTE Robert Harvey, testifying at Miland's 1999 sentencing: "And I believe, Randy, that you preyed on the vulnerable patients, your friends and your professional associates, and I resent that personally because of the status that you had.... And then when I learned, as we all did, of the spending of the monies that we had invested, spending thousands of dollars as Doctor Big Shot in all the strip joints, feeding your sexual addiction, I don't know what else to call it, on drugs and girls and the lifestyle... I can't tell you how much that hurts."

 

Rollin C. Green
Northfield, Minnesota

TAX STAT Owes $592,283.16 in state sales tax incurred between 1994 and 1998

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS Green has operated an auto mechanic shop--variously known as Southside Service, Southside Rebuilders, or Southside Auto--in Northfield for three decades. He supposedly specializes in working on diesel engines. However, Green has piled up his share of disgruntled customers. In Rice County District Court, he's been successfully sued at least five times. David Seleen, for instance, says that he took his diesel-engine Volkswagen Jetta to Green in 1994 to have a head gasket replaced after seeing the mechanic's advertisement in the Star Tribune. Seleen was living in Minnetonka at the time, but couldn't find anyone local to do the job. He says that he made three or four trips down to Northfield to pick up the supposedly repaired vehicle, but that each time the car conked out before he could make it home. Seleen eventually sued Green and received a judgment of $4,473.35, but he's never collected a dime of it. Green has been equally elusive for state tax collectors. An audit conducted by the Minnesota Department of Revenue concluded that between 1981 and 1998 he failed to pay $540,000 in sales taxes. Green filed for bankruptcy in 1999, claiming to have just $12,310 in assets and a monthly income of $2,000.

FUN FACT From 1972 to 1981, Green and his then-wife operated a milk-delivery company known as Green Acre Dairies.

QUOTE "He's such a good talker," says David Seleen. "I actually had faith in the guy at first. I don't know why I paid him but I did."

 

John I. Priscella
Crystal, Minnesota

TAX STAT Owes $5,202,402.41 in income taxes incurred between 1995 and 1997

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS Priscella became a notorious figure in the Twin Cities business community almost immediately upon arriving from California in 1988. Within five years, according to a 1993 Star Tribune story about Priscella's company, Impression Delivery Corp., the then 41-year-old entrepreneur had racked up more than $400,000 in adverse civil judgments. As detailed in the prescient story, Priscella's company had far-flung ventures--AIDS drugs, a potato harvesting company, gambling operations--but few revenues and no profits. The bad publicity did little to slow Priscella's wheeling and dealing. He next made headlines in the late '90s with the collapse of Equisure, a mysterious Minneapolis-based insurance company that Priscella helped found. As chronicled in two Pioneer Press articles, the company saw sensational gains in its stock price after joining the American Stock Exchange in 1996, but was de-listed the next year amid accusations of fraud and insider trading. Former shareholders won a $45 million class-action judgment against the company in 1998. The FBI investigated Priscella and the firm, but no one was ever charged criminally. In the years since, Priscella has been involved in an array of fledgling corporations, none of which have panned out. In 2003 he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in federal court. In the filing he claimed to have less than $1,501 worth of assets and almost $600,000 in debts.

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