Humor has been in short supply at the Jinwright trial, but Thursday offered a brief (if unintended) exception.

Remember last week’s testimony that touched on how co-pastors Anthony and Harriet Jinwright filed amended tax returns for years 2001 and 2002 – without the knowledge of their tax preparer – requesting $151,428 in refunds?

Readers also may recall that the Jinwrights’ lawyers sought to raise doubts about the authenticity of those amended returns, noting that the signatures did not appear to match the Jinwrights’ and that the documents gave a post office address instead of the home address the Jinwrights normally used.

With Anthony Jinwright on the stand Thursday facing a second day of cross-examination, those amended returns were further explained.

Jinwright acknowledged that the returns were filed by a company operated by individuals who have since been convicted of tax fraud. The leader of that company was a woman named Tiara El (see video above).

According to court documents and published reports, El and her associates duped hundreds of local residents into giving them checks for $610. In return, El claimed that she could file amended returns on behalf of her clients, netting them tens of thousands of dollars in tax refunds based on a little-used provision in the Tax Code that applies to “indigenous people.”

“What is an indigenous person?” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Brown asked Jinwright.

Jinwright: “A native”

Brown: “Are you a Native American?”

“No,” the 53-year-old preacher said, “I’m African American.”

Chuckles could be heard throughout the courtroom.

Along with their check, the Jinwrights also gave the company limited power of attorney to file the amended returns (which explains why the signatures didn’t match).

Jinwright testified that, after a few days, his wife called the company requesting their money back because, he said, the whole thing just didn’t feel right.

Was that because the IRS conducted search warrants at the company’s office? Brown asked.

“We learned about that somewhat afterward,” Jinwright replied.

Jinwright testified that they never got a tax refund or their money back. They did, however, receive a letter from the IRS notifying them that the amended returns were potentially fraudulent, according to testimony.

In other testimony Thursday, Brown questioned Jinwright about dozens of checks that Jinwright wrote to fellow preachers, churches and other ministries. On Tuesday, Jinwright’s attorney had used those same checks to indicate his client’s generosity.
But during cross-examination, Brown suggested that the checks were part of a plan by Jinwright to claim illegal tax deductions.

Brown showed the court reimbursement checks that Jinwright received from his church, Greater Salem City of God, after making the contributions. He then showed some of Jinwright’s tax records indicating that the pastor also had used his checks to claim charitable deductions on federal tax returns.

Brown asked the preacher whether he had, indeed, used the checks to claim a charitable deduction.

“I don’t know how our preparer calculated what’s charitable or what’s not,” Jinwright responded.

–If you see a handful of African American woman marching repeatedly around the federal courthouse in uptown Charlotte, chances are good that they are supporters of Anthony and Harriet Jinwright. For two days now, a small group has been walking around the building seven times at various points throughout the day. (Biblical scholars consider seven the number of completion.) Others have been overheard discussing a group fast. And during a brief court recess Thursday, a handful of Bibles were seen scattered along gallery pews.

–As the trial drags on, Judge Frank Whitney has reminded both sides of the need to keep things moving. Yesterday, he asked jurors to decide whether they would prefer to work Saturday or Monday. Not surprisingly, they chose Monday.

The trial resumes today and is expected to go to the jury early next week, possibly on Monday.
Editor’s Note: Click here to read coverage from previous days.

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