St. Johnsbury Businessman Charged With Tax Evasion, Identity Theft

In this file photo from October 2019, Blake Jenkins is in Caledonia Superior Court in St. Johnsbury with defense attorneys Alan Franklin, left, and John Viscido. (Photo By Todd Wellington)

A St. Johnsbury businessman who is being prosecuted in county court for allegedly setting his daughter’s car on fire is now facing charges of tax evasion and identity theft in federal court.

Blakely H. Jenkins, Sr., 60, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Burlington on six counts of tax evasion and one count of identity theft in connection with Jenkins’ operation of his St. Johnsbury-based painting business, Blake Jenkins Painting, Inc.

He was arrested on Thursday and jailed at Northwest State Correctional Facility. He is expected in U.S. District Court in Burlington today.

The federal indictment happens at a time when charges of third-degree arson and driving a vehicle without the owner’s consent are pending against him in Caledonia Superior Court.

Jenkins is accused of stealing Hailey Jenkins’ 2016 Subaru from a parking lot behind her St. Johnsbury residence on Railroad Street in the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 2019, driving it to 136 Bay St. and setting it on fire.

A motion filed by Jenkins’ attorney, Jody Frey, seeks dismissal of the county charges. The motion, which claims the state can’t prove how the car fire was ignited, has been pending for nearly a year, having been filed in November 2020. A hearing to discuss the case further has not been scheduled in Caledonia Superior Court.

In the new federal indictment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says Jenkins evaded employment taxes for over five years by under-reporting to the Internal Revenue Service the amount of wages that the painting company actually paid to its employees.

“Between July 2015 and October 2020, Jenkins paid employee wages partially or entirely ‘off the books’ in two different ways: by paying them in cash, or by writing them checks falsely denoted as non-wage payments,” the U.S. Attorney’s office noted.

The indictment further alleges that Jenkins knowingly used the name of another person in connection with his commission of tax evasion.

If convicted, Jenkins faces a maximum prison penalty of five years and a $100,000 fine for each tax evasion charge, and a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for the identity theft charge.

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan Ophardt said the investigatory work of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service led to the indictment.

Attorney Frey, whose law office is in Newport, is also representing Jenkins in the federal case.

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