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Thursday, January 18, 2001

State vows to
prosecute violators
of tax law

By Debra Barayuga

The co-founder of now-defunct Perfect Title Co., which challenged property titles based on 19th-century Hawaiian kingdom law, will serve no jail time for failing to obtain a general excise tax license or file a tax return.

But state attorneys said they will continue to prosecute those who willfully break the state's tax laws.

"The message needs to get out there that if you are doing business and accepting money from clients, you're required by law to pay general excise taxes, get a general excise tax license and file returns, and if you willfully avoid doing that, we're going to prosecute you," said Rick Damerville, deputy attorney general.

Because he has no prior criminal history, Circuit Judge Sandra Simms yesterday granted Donald Lewis, 65, a deferral of his no-contest plea for failure to file a general excise tax return for tax year 1996. She ordered him, however, to complete 50 hours of community service.

Lewis also pleaded no contest to his company's failure to obtain a general excise tax license before doing business in 1996.

Under a plea agreement accepted by the court, the state recommended that Perfect Title be fined $25,000, with $21,000 suspended because the company is now defunct and has no real assets, Damerville said.

An extra $4,500 seized as evidence from the company will go toward payment of the balance.

Lewis' attorney, Don Wilkerson, said Lewis believes that the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom was illegal and that he did not believe it was necessary to obtain a general excise tax license or file taxes.

Lewis was acquitted in November 1999 on an attempted first-degree theft charge for trying to reclaim an Aiea home for a couple who had lost it through foreclosure.

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