This week, the owner of a Midland, Texas, trucking company was sentenced to prison for failing to pay millions of dollars worth of employment taxes and using the money to support an “extravagant lifestyle.”

Thomas Valdez Rodriguez, 45, was sentenced on Tuesday, August 9, to 24 months in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, following an investigation conducted by IRS Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI).

Rodriguez was also ordered to pay $12,714,214.42 in restitution.

In January 2022, Rodriguez pleaded guilty to two counts of willful failure to account for and pay over federal withholding taxes. 

Rodriguez is the owner of both Tom-E-Lee Trucking and Tom-E-Lee Industries. Authorities say that from 2012 through 2018, Rodriguez failed to pay employment taxes withheld from workers at his trucking company. From 2015 through 2018, he also allegedly failed to pay employment taxes withheld from workers at Tom-E-Lee Industries.

Additionally, Rodriguez reportedly failed to pay personal income taxes since 2011.

The total tax harm from unpaid employment tax and personal income tax is listed at  $12,714,214.42.

Texas authorities say that Rodriguez spent the money that should have gone to taxes on chartered jets, season tickets to the Dallas Cowboys games, and a new home worth over $2 million.

“This sentence serves as a reckoning for a defendant that deliberately evaded paying federal payroll taxes, cheating the tax system, his employees, and in the end, all American taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff.  “Here we had a business owner who withheld money from his employees’ pay and rather than paying the employment taxes as he was trusted to do, he turned those funds into a personal piggy bank to fuel whatever he desired in his extravagant lifestyle.”

“The collection and payment of employment taxes by business owners on behalf of their employees is a cornerstone of our country’s voluntary tax system. Thomas Rodriguez’s failure to pay over withheld employment taxes to the IRS is a serious criminal offense,” said IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge Ramsey E. Covington of the Houston Field Office.  “Additionally, Rodriguez spent the millions in unpaid employment taxes on himself, funding his lavish lifestyle and burgeoning business. These actions not only harmed his employees’ future Social Security and Medicare benefits, he was also stealing from all honest taxpayers and the United States Treasury. IRS-CI will continue to track down business owners and payroll professionals who, like Rodriguez, use their employees’ withheld employment taxes for their own personal gain.”

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