Robert Walker’s Daughter, Melanie Bonine, Sentenced for Filing a False United States Income Tax Return
MINNEAPOLIS—Yesterday in federal court, United States District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson sentenced Melanie Lynn Bonine to 36 months in federal prison for filing a false United States Individual Income Tax Return for the year 2009. Bonine is the daughter of Robert A. Walker, founder of Bixby Energy Systems, who, on March 5, 2014, and following an eight- week jury trial, was found guilty of four counts of mail fraud, nine counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, one count of witness tampering, and three counts of tax evasion. Mr. Walker’s sentencing hearing for these offenses has not yet been scheduled.
According to Bonine’s plea agreement, entered in June 2013, Bonine falsely reported that she had $167,944 of total income for the 2009 tax year. Bonine admitted to willfully failing to report over $700,000 in additional income, which she received from the 2009 sale of warrants for common shares of Bixby Energy Systems.
Bonine’s 36-month sentence represented an upward variance from the 18- to 24-month-range suggested for her tax offense by the United States Sentencing Guidelines. In varying upward, Judge Nelson noted that Bonine had been involved in Bixby Energy Systems for many years and had misappropriated company money even during years when it was clearly insolvent and its purported business badly foundering. Judge Nelson noted that, in presiding over Walker’s trial, she had seen firsthand the devastation wrought by the Bixby fraud scheme to Bixby’s shareholders, many of whom testified before her. She noted that even Walker testified during the trial that Bonine had stolen Bixby funds. Judge Nelson rejected Bonine’s statement at her sentencing hearing that Bonine’s tax crime was a “one-time slip-up,” noting that Bonine’s thefts of Bixby funds occurred without interruption for several consecutive years.
Following yesterday’s sentencing, Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of the St. Paul Field Office IRS-Criminal Investigation stated that “failing to pay your taxes is not a victimless crime. We all pay when others swindle the government. A tax fraud of this magnitude and with this degree of trickery, dishonesty, and deceit deserves to be punished. The IRS and the United States Attorney’s Office remain determined and vigilant in ferreting out such schemes to cheat the honest taxpayers.”
This tax case brought against Bonine was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division, and the broader fraud scheme was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David J. MacLaughlin and Benjamin F. Langner.