19-month term slapped on tax evader Fitzgibbons

"My neglect, I will take to my grave," he told the judge.

Michael Fitzgibbons, a former marketing executive who made about $10 million in income between 2003 and 2007, was sentenced Monday to 19 months in prison by a Hennepin County judge for failing to file and pay state income taxes for those years.

Fitzgibbons, 53, was convicted by a jury in March on 10 counts of income tax evasion.

Prosecutors said Fitzgibbons was one of the biggest tax evaders ever prosecuted in Hennepin County.

"This is my fault," Fitzgibbons said at his sentencing before District Judge Marilyn Rosenbaum. "I have never once had an intent to cheat anybody on my taxes. My neglect, I will take to my grave. I will build on this. I'm going to prove to everyone that I'm a role-model taxpayer and citizen."

Rosenbaum, in dismissing defense arguments that Fitzgibbons was naive, inattentive and a bad manager of money, denied Fitzgibbons' request that he be sentenced to probation.

Fitzgibbons filed for extensions and started to comply only after a federal audit was commenced in 2008, according to the prosecution.

"I cannot accept the continuing excuses," Rosenbaum said before the sentencing. "Your testimony was not credible at trial."

The 19-month sentence was in keeping with state sentencing guidelines.

Fitzgibbons, a former sales star at Eagan-based North American Communications Resources, could be eligible for a supervised release program after serving 13 months behind bars. He also was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and certain other costs. He was taken into custody by Hennepin County deputies after sentencing.

Fitzgibbons' tax liability to the state was $371,312 for the five-year period.

Tom Fabel, an assistant county prosecutor, said Fitzgibbons has since paid more than $800,000 in principal, interest and penalties to the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Fitzgibbons' attorney, Peter Wold, said his client had also made good to the IRS.

Fitzgibbons owed more than $1 million to the federal government for 2003-07.

At trial, Fitzgibbon testified that he didn't realize he owed more than what was withheld from his paycheck and that he needed to file a return.

Prosecutors painted him as a savvy business executive and negotiator who ignored his accountant and the tax man until he was contacted by tax authorities after an audit of his company's books.

He has since hired a former IRS agent to help settle his tax matters with the state and federal governments.

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144

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