IRS Raids Business,
Home of Creationist
by Brett Norman
Pensacola News Journal
Saturday, April 17, 2004
Internal Revenue Service agents are investigating a Pensacola man who operates a creationist theme park and museum off Old Palafox Road and who they say is evading taxes on more than $1 million in income.
This week, federal IRS agents raided the home and businesses of Kent Hovind, 51, in the first block of Cummings Road, confiscating all computer and paper records of financial activity since January 1997.
The creation-science evangelist argues against evolution around the world. He also sells literature and videos supporting his views and charges admission to his Pensacola theme park and museum through a number of entities.
But in a sworn statement made to obtain the search warrant served Wednesday, IRS agent Scott Schneider said none of Hovind's enterprises has a business license in Escambia County or has tax-exempt status as a nonprofit enterprise.
"Since 1997, Hovind has engaged in financial transactions indicating sources of income and has made deposits to bank accounts well in excess of $1 million per year during some of these years, which would require the filing of federal income taxes," wrote Schneider.
The statement is based on financial records plucked from Hovind's garbage from July 2002 through March 2004, statements from a former employee, Internet research and public records.
Hovind, who has not been charged, suspects he is being targeted because of his religious beliefs. He adamantly denies wrongdoing.
He questioned the timing of the search-one day before federal income tax returns were due.
"They've got to flex their muscle this time of year," he said. "I guess they chose me. It will be somebody else next year."
He referred questions about business practices to Glen Stoll, director of Remedies at Law, a frim based in Edmonds, Wash., that represents him.
"This is based on misperceptions," Stoll said. "They don't understand how the church is created and registered, how it operates under church law, which is entirely separate from secular authorities."
Friday afternoon, Stoll sent a letter to Schneider, demanding the return of the property. Attached to the letter wasdocumentation that Hovind's operations-including Dino Adventure Land, Faith Baptist Church, Creation Science Evangelism and CSE Enterprises-operate under an umbrella organization recognized by the State of Washington.
Alycyn Culbertson, special agent and spokeswoman for the IRS, said Friday she had not received the letter and could not respond to it. She denied that the timing of the search was relevant.
"I assure you that we don't go to inordinate lengths to make sure something happens around April 15," she said. "But if the investigation is at that point around that time, we don't hold it up either."
Hovind has a May 18 court date to face three misdemeanor charges arising from his refusal to obtain a permit to construct a metal building on his property. Hovind said the building meets or exceeds building codes, and he objects to the permitting process as an undue expense on the church.
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