Foresthill man sentenced to month in prison for tax fraud

Richardson said falling for scam was ‘stupid mistake’
By: Jenifer Gee Journal News Editor
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A Foresthill man said his mistake is a cautionary tax tale to others. On Friday, Robert Fordney “Potato” Richardson, 67, was sentenced in federal court to one month in prison and ordered to pay $64,210 in restitution after he pleaded guilty in December 2007 to filing a false tax return. Richardson, who said he fell victim to a tax fraud scam, was also sentenced to one year of supervised released, which includes five months of electronic home monitoring and 60 hours of community service, according to a press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Eastern District of California office. Richardson was arrested in April 2005 on four counts of filing false tax returns and one count of failing to file a tax return as a result of an Internal Revenue Service criminal investigation, according to the release. Court documents show that Joseph Saladino, the leader of a tax protest movement, influenced Richardson, the release stated. In December, a federal jury in Oregon convicted Saladino on multiple tax fraud charges and he is set to be sentenced in April. On Monday, Richardson said he regrets what he calls “a stupid mistake.” “I was following the lead of so-called experts and they were not really going by the true IRS code,” Richardson said. Richardson said he was drawn into Saladino’s plan when he was shown tax loopholes that could save him money. “I was a financial planner for 22 years so I really fell hook, line and sinker for this stupid tax system on the Internet,” Richardson said. Richardson said he initially spent about 25 days in jail. He said there he researched the law further in the facility’s library. “I realized I was listening to a charlatan and not getting good advice,” Richardson said. As a result of Richardson’s initial confinement, he said he was told he would receive credit for time served and thus he expects to spend a few days in prison as opposed to a month. Richardson said he drew support from local officials including Auburn city manager Bob Richardson, Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Cosgrove and deputy district attorney Tom Beattie, all of whom wrote letters of recommendation vouching for Potato Richardson’s character. “Basically what they said to the IRS is I’m not a criminal, I just made a mistake,” Potato Richardson said. Potato Richardson also said he’s been a longtime member of the community. The defendant’s sentencing memo, prepared by federal defender Daniel Broderick, also highlights Potato Richardson’s volunteer commitment including “recently agreeing to chair a committee to beautify downtown Auburn with a large public artwork by prominent sculptor Doug Van Howd.” Richardson said he hopes others will learn from his mistake. “The lesson I learned is to hire a very good CPA,” Potato Richardson said. “And make sure you follow the advice of your CPA otherwise the consequences can be horrible.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at