Three cult members charged with evading taxes

Associated Press/April 13, 2004

Camden, N.J. -- Three construction company executives who say paying federal taxes would violate their religious beliefs have been indicted on charges of failing to withhold taxes from employees' paychecks, authorities said.

Kevin McKee, 47, of Egg Harbor Township, and Joseph Donato, 46, of Mays Landing, owners of McKee Donato Construction Co. in Mays Landing, were indicted by a federal grand jury Monday. Also charged was Donato's wife, Inge Donato, 44, the company's bookkeeper.

The three are members of The Restored Israel of Yahweh, an Atlantic County religious organization known for peaceful tax protests.

They are charged with conspiring to defraud the government by not withholding taxes from employees' paychecks, although they did withhold taxes from the checks of employees who weren't members of the group, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie said.

They allegedly underreported employee wages by $698,736, resulting in the underpayment of $106,907 in taxes between December 1996 and December 2001. The three also were charged with using construction company checks to pay for personal purchases, including automobiles, a refrigerator and paint.

If convicted on all counts, they could get more than 60 years in prison and be fined more than $3 million.

Members of the group have protested in front of a federal courthouse here in years past, saying the Internal Revenue Service had no right to collect taxes and that the U.S. government uses the money to promote war.

"It's a moral stand," RIOY secretary Nancy Miscko told The Courier-Post newspaper. "We can't support war. We're honest, hardworking people. We don't intentionally fight the government, but we're taking a stand. We must obey God rather than men."

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