A Rhode Island man who was part-owner of a New Bedford seafood business has been sentenced to serve three years in prison for tax evasion, U.S. Attorney Aaron L. Weisman has announced.

According to court documents, Billie R. Schofield evaded paying federal income taxes for more than ten years while associated with Northern Pelagic LLC, or NorPel, a seafood processing business located on Fish Island in New Bedford.

Despite earning hundreds of thousands of dollars, Schofield failed to pay taxes owed, and even claimed zero dollars of income in 2008. In 2009, Schofield stopped filing tax returns altogether, according to an indictment filed in Rhode Island's federal court in Providence.

Between 2008 and 2018, Schofield obstructed IRS efforts to assess and collect taxes by filing fraudulent forms, advancing frivolous tax arguments, creating and using a nominee entity and bank account, negotiating income checks to cash, and creating and submitting fraudulent checks to the IRS in an attempt to extinguish tax liabilities, Weisman said in a media release. Including penalties and interest, Schofield caused a tax loss of more than $350,000 to the United States, Weisman said.

In addition to a prison term, U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith sentenced Schofield to three years of supervised release, a $5,000 fine, and ordered him to pay $364,200.22 in restitution to the IRS.

NorPel did not immediately return a Monday morning telephone call seeking comment, but according to corporate filings, it appears that Schofield was removed from the company about five years ago:

"Billie Schofield is no longer authorized to execute documents filed with the corporations division or regarding real property," states a 2015 annual report filed with the Massachusetts Secretary of State by Northern Pelagic, LLC. The company was first incorporated in 2002, and in that year, Schofield was listed as one of six members of the LLC. He was summoned to appear in federal court on a criminal indictment in April of 2018.

According to charging documents, Schofield was general manager of NorPel from 2002 to 2015. During portions of that time, he made commissions for brokering seafood deals, sold seafood on behalf of an affiliate, and received consulting fees. Schofield also made money in 2011 and 2012 via the "manufacture and sale of marijuana" in Rhode Island, court documents state.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Weisman commended special agents of IRS-CI, who investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra Hebert and Trial Attorney Christopher P. O’Donnell of the Tax Division who prosecuted the case. Weisman thanked General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department's Tax Division and Special Agent in Charge Kristina O'Connell of IRS Criminal Investigation.

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