Goshute leader is told to settle with the IRS

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Leon D. Bear A federal judge gave Goshute leader Leon D. Bear until Feb. 10 to catch up with the Internal Revenue Service on old tax debts.

U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins chastised prosecutors for tying up the three years of tax documents Bear needs in separate cases that are now wrapping up.

Bear, chairman of the Skull Valley Band of Goshutes, pleaded guilty in June to filing a false tax return. The judge sentenced him to 3 years probation and ordered him to repay the tribe $31,542 in duplicate travel payments and other funds - reimbursement related to some of the five counts against Bear that had been dropped in a plea bargain.

As part of Bear's sentence, Jenkins also told Bear to "make peace" with the IRS for unpaid taxes on $192,316 of income, penalties and interest.

Tuesday's hearing was originally intended to be a progress report on that effort. But Bear's attorney, Joseph Thibodeau, said it wasn't until Monday that his client received a notice about his IRS obligations for 2003 and 2004 taxes.

Some of the 121 members of the Skull Valley Goshutes have frequently accused their leaders of corruption in the eight years since the Goshutes signed a deal with Private Fuel Storage, a consortium of utility companies that plans to build an above-ground storage site for nuclear-reactor waste. Bear's critics say they have been cut out of financial benefits that have come with the multibillion-dollar waste project and other tribal ventures.

Jenkins on Tuesday chastised prosecutors for dragging their feet about making the documents available to Bear and his attorneys, who estimate it will be another few weeks before the relevant materials are copied and delivered.

"Somebody, somebody needs to take an interest in what is going on," said Jenkins.