Twenty special agents of the Internal Revenue Service conducted simultaneous search raids at the headquarters of Save-A-Patriot Fellowship and the home of its director, John B. Kotmair Jr., in Carroll County yesterday.
SAP, in a one-story brick building at 12 Carroll St. in Westminster, was described as an organization dedicated to willful evasion of tax payment or willful failure to file tax returns, in an affidavit submitted to obtain warrants.
Mr. Kotmair said his organization is only showing people that the government has no right to collect taxes. He said the IRS wanted to shut down SAP so "the public won't know the truth."
"They're taking records that they already have," Mr. Kotmair said last night before heading to be a panelist on the "Conference Call" WCBM-AM (680) radio talk show.
In executing the warrant, IRS agents were instructed to seize all records of the Save-A-Patriot Fellowship, Patriot Defense Fellowship, National Worker's Rights Committee, Americans Against Judicial Distortion, ACT Association Legal Office, Tax Research Associates Committee for Correspondence, and other entities relating to John B. Kotmair Jr.
Records indicate the agents were searching for evidence Mr. Kotmair evaded paying taxes in violation of Title 26 of the U.S. Code.
IRS records revealed -- and Mr. Kotmair confirmed -- that he has not filed an income tax return since 1972. The records also show the IRS assessed taxes, penalties and interest despite the lack of returns. As of the end of September 1993, the balance due was $520,257.
By 3 p.m. yesterday, federal agents had taken more than two truckloads of documents from the downtown Westminster office, said Domenic J. LaPonzina, spokesman for the Baltimore IRS office. Mr. Kotmair said they also took his printing press and $44,000 in cash from a safe in his home on Groves Mill Road, money earmarked for continuing the fellowship's mission.
"They will shut us down for a short while, but we'll be back," he said.
Federal records indicate the fee to join SAP has risen from $35 in the late '80s to $650. Members pay in cash or with a blank postal money order, federal investigators said.
Special Agent Michael R. O'Hanlon, in his application for a search warrant, also said Mr. Kotmair secures power of attorney from SAP members to communicate, for a fee, with the IRS on their behalf. However, records have not been found to indicate Mr. Kotmair is an attorney, certified public accountant or an enrolled agent before the IRS.
In April 1981, Mr. Kotmair was convicted of failing to file federal tax returns in 1975 and 1976. Federal officials testified that the forms he filed were incomplete and he enclosed a "Kotmair Reserve Note" to pay the taxes he owed.
At the time, Mr. Kotmair and members of his group claimed that Federal Reserve notes were worthless because they aren't backed by silver or gold in the federal treasury. Therefore, they said, citizens owe no taxes.
U.S. District Judge James R. Miller Jr. sentenced Mr. Kotmair to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine in May 1981. In 1980, Maryland's Tax Court ordered Mr. Kotmair to pay his state income taxes from 1974 and 1975. The Carroll County Circuit Court upheld that decision.
Before Mr. Kotmair's 1981 conviction, ownership of his 19-acre property was transferred to his wife, who then transferred it to Rebel Ridge Association, a company owned by Mrs. Kotmair and their four children. In 1985, the property was transferred to Hong Kong Investments and Development Co. Ltd., also owned by Mrs. Kotmair and the children.