A Portland, Oregon clergyman faces possible prison time for helping the owner of a mail-order divorce business evade $220,345 in taxes, a scheme that put an illegal tithe in the pastor’s pockets.
Maximo Garza, the 46-year-old pastor of Victory Outreach Church of Portland, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court to aiding the preparation of a false tax return, a felony that carries a penalty of up to three years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 11.
Between 2001 and 2003, business owner William C. Thompson — who ran a mail-order divorce service called Hallwood, Inc. — gave checks totaling $735,441 to Garza for public relations and other services that were supposedly performed by the nonprofit Victory Outreach Church. In fact, the church performed no such work.
IRS investigators later found that neither the church nor its board of directors knew of the scheme.