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I-Team exclusive: Independence lawyer John Carnes addresses tax evasion indictment

John Carnes
Posted at 7:10 PM, Dec 23, 2022
and last updated 2023-01-04 13:18:28-05

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — The I-Team interviewed John Carnes at his office about his indictment Friday.

The Internal Revenue Service charged Carnes with nine counts of failing to pay his taxes, tax evasion and obstruction.

Carnes doesn't deny he failed to pay his taxes, but told the I-Team, it's his belief the feds are coming after him because of KSHB's previous reporting.

"There's millions of people in this country that are in same tax situation I am," Carnes said. "This is selective enforcement."

The IRS claims Carnes corruptly obstructed the IRS by dealing in cash and receiving cash from clients, but not depositing that cash into his bank accounts.

In 2018, the I-Team revealed Carnes met at restaurants with select members of the city council to discuss two high dollar, controversial projects: Missouri City Power Plant and Rockwood Golf Club.

On its face, the meetings brought the council members' judgment into question, considering Carnes' was convicted in the 80s of bribing an Independence City councilman on behalf of his clients.

Missouri City
The city council's decision to tear down the old power plant didn't make sense to many people in or around city hall. The Environmental Protection Agency deemed the plant safe and the city was not required to spend any money to remediate it.

Still, in 2017, majority of the city council voted in favor of tearing it down and hired the high bidder of nearly $10 million to do the work.

The I-Team learned through an old city agenda that the winning bidder, Environmental Operations Inc. out of St. Louis, was invited to city hall one year before the bidding began to give a special presentation on the project.

Scott Roberson, former council member who voted against the project, previously told the I-Team it was fellow council member Curt Dougherty who invited the group to pitch the project in 2016.

Within days of EOI's exclusive invite, a dining receipt shows Dougherty and two other members of the city council dined out with Carnes to discuss "Missouri City."

Carnes and Dougherty both told the I-Team at the time, Carnes had a client who was going to finance the project.

However, the city manager said outside financing was never considered.

Even Eileen Weir, former mayor of Independence, said she had no idea these meetings ever occurred.

Both late council member Karen DeLuccie and Roberson also said they were not aware that other members of the council were conducting city-related business outside of city hall.

In 2017, the city purchased the old Rockwood Golf Course.

It was bought from the longtime owner Ron Bruch, who said he offered the land to the city for around $500,000.

Eventually, the land was purchased by Titan Fish, a developer, for the same price.

Two months after making the purchase, Titan Fish sold the land to the city for nearly just under $1 million.

According to another lunch receipt, two days after Dougherty met with Carnes on the Missouri City project, Dougherty also met with Titan Fish.

Carnes initially told the I-Team he was going to represent clients in both projects, but ultimately did not have anything to do with Rockwood.

Following the recently unsealed indictment against Carnes, which reveals he deposited $232,000 from the combined projects, he told the I-Team he did advise Titan Fish on the sale of the Rockwood land to the city.

Feds launch investigation
Carnes claims the meetings between him and the council members were not a secret, even though the public wasn't given notice and no one around city hall claims to have known about it.

"Every meeting I have with these council members was open; that's a fact. That they turn in a receipt that we had a lunch together, I think that to the contrary it's been an open discussion," Carnes said. And, I believe the result of the Rockwood purchase was good for the city. And I believe that it's a project the city can be proud of."

After the I-Team aired its investigations in 2018, sunshine requests showed the Federal Bureau of Investigation began asking for records pertaining to Rockwood and Missouri City.

DeLuccie also told the I-Team she was interviewed by a federal agent who wanted to know about Rockwood and Missouri City.

Carnes said the feds investigations proves nothing nefarious happened.

"The federal people have been here in Independence the last five years looking around, following every rumor, I think it’s evident it’s just rumors," Carnes said. "I think at the very end they thought, well, we’re going to kick this guy in the teeth and and we’re gonna give him these tax indictments."

More from the indictment
The IRS claims Carnes also obstructed the agency by depositing the $232,000 in fees received for services provided in the sale of the former Rockwood Golf Course property and the Missouri City Power Plant project into his attorney trust accounts.

Carnes told the I-Team it's not surprising he makes money off of clients considering he's an attorney.

Still, the indictment shows Carnes' taxable income per his returns increased exponentially in 2016, 2017 and 2018, which is the timeframe the Rockwood and Missouri City deals were reached.

Carnes' taxable income in 2015 was $14,114.

In 2016, the income increased to $181,211.

John Carnes' tax records
John Carnes' tax records

According to the indictment, Carnes didn't pay his taxes from 2012 to 2018.

Carnes is scheduled for arraignment on Jan. 5.

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