FAIRBANKS -- The government has received the go-ahead to foreclose on real estate owned by a Salcha couple who owe $180,000, plus interest and penalties, and are in jail awaiting trial on charges of conspiring to kill an IRS agent and a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Lonny Suko has issued the order against Lonnie and Karen Vernon, The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The couple challenged the federal government's right to collect taxes, but lost. In March they were accused with three others of plotting to kill the former judge and the IRS agent working on their case.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough appraises the couple's 1,564-square-foot home and 4.5-acre parcel of land at nearly $190,000.
After sale costs, auction proceeds pay the borough first, then the federal government. A borough notice in March said Karen Vernon had a debt of $2,718.
Although the Vernons are jailed, Suko's order set a deadline of Oct. 20 for them to vacate the home and said they'd forfeit property that hasn't been removed by then.
The tax fight dates to 1999. The IRS accused the Vernons of not paying federal taxes for 1996 and for the years 2000 through 2003. The initial judge, Ralph Beistline, and then Suko rejected their arguments.
Federal prosecutors say the Vernons' anger toward Beistline spawned a plot to kill him, along with a tax agent working on their case. Their arrests, along with those of Schaeffer Cox, Coleman Barney and Michael O. Anderson, followed hundreds of hours of secret surveillance by the FBI, prosecutors said.
All have pleaded not guilty. Trials are scheduled in February and March.