By Ryan Gueningsman
HENNEPIN COUNTY, MN A Delano area couple is facing nine felony-level charges after allegedly intentionally filing false income tax returns and failing to remit individual income taxes.
Gary Albert Collyard, 62, and his wife, Valeri Lennon, 51, of rural Delano, were charged with the offenses in August following an extensive investigation, according to a formal complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court.
Collyard is believed to have intentionally filed a false tax return for 2006, and Collyard and Lennon both are believed to have failed to file Minnesota returns for tax years 2007 and 2008, according to the complaint.
A search warrant was executed at the couple’s home on 45th Street SE, with Minnesota Department of Revenue (MDOR) authorities seizing personal finance records. An attempted audit of Collyard and Lennon’s tax returns for 2002 through 2006 also took place, which was “largely frustrated by an absence of cooperation from defendant Collyard,” according to the complaint.
Internal Revenue Service interviews with the couple’s former tax preparers were reviewed, and analysis of their bank records also took place as part of the investigation.
MDOR records indicate Collyard and Lennon jointly filed Minnesota tax returns for tax years 2000 through 2006, although in every year but the last, the returns were filed late, in some instances by at least three years, according to the complaint. The returns for those years reflected a relatively small amount of income, coupled with large business expenses, resulting in refunds for four of the years and state tax liabilities for the other three, averaging less than $1,400 per year. MDOR has received no return from Collyard or Lennon for tax years 2007 and 2008.
According to several former employees interviewed by authorities, Collyard’s principal business throughout this period has been a real estate and investment entity known as Collyard Group LLC.
The principal income for Lennon came from a photography business in which she was a part owner, and from which she received wages.
“Despite the appearance from the tax returns that defendants have earned minimal disposable income since 2002, the former employees report that defendants pursued an extravagant lifestyle during this period,” according to the complaint, which went on to detail a “large and elegant home” with an assessed tax value of $1,552,900.
Ownership of vehicles including Cadillac Escalades, a Porsche 928, and a Mercedes S43 was also detailed in the complaint, as was that “Collyard always wore the most expensive suits and ate at the most expensive restaurants.”
The complaint alleges that, at minimum, Collyard and Lennon owe $20,578 in tax, penalty, and interest for 2006; $19,358 for 2007; and $22,926 for 2008, for a total of $62,862.
Following the search warrant that took place Aug. 5, 2009, MDOR was advised through Collyard and Lennon’s attorney that the couple wanted to file a return for 2008, but could not because of missing records. MDOR gave Collyard and Lennon access to the records that had been seized, but still no return has been filed for 2008, according to the complaint.
Collyard and Lennon have appeared in court on the charges, and have an arraignment hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 18.
An article in the business section of Wednesday’s Star Tribune said, in 1998, Collyard was convicted in federal court for filing fraudulent tax returns, statements, or other documents, which is a misdemeanor. He was sentence to two years of probation and 200 hours of community service.
A Maple Grove woman blamed Collyard for the loss of her entire retirement savings, and the article in the Star Tribune also said Collyard has a connection to a federal investigation underway into the sale of stock in Bixby Energy, a troubled Ramsey developer of coal-to-natural-gas technology, as well as involvement with a Wayzata company called MX Telecom.
In the complaint, Collyard is charged with five felony-level counts, and Lennon with four felony-level counts. Each carries a maximum penalty if found guilty of up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.