The business partner of former Forsyth County commissioner Everette Witherspoon was sentenced Tuesday to six months in prison on a charge of failing to file a federal tax return.
Willie Lee Cole Jr. of Greensboro is also the sixth person to be charged in connection to a tax-fraud scheme that operated out of Fast Tax of Winston-Salem. However, the indictments do not allege that he filed any false tax returns for anyone else, including himself.
Cole was indicted in September on three misdemeanor counts of failing to file an individual tax return for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015. Forsyth County prosecutors allege that in each of those years, Cole earned a six-figure income from co-owning Chris's Rehablative Services LLC. Witherspoon founded the mental-health company in 2009 and described it on his Facebook page as one of the largest providers of "Psycho Social Rehabilitation services in North Carolina." He also claimed that he had expanded his business to Atlanta.
Cole is also connected to Witherspoon in another way — the two men were co-owners of Quick Taxes LLC in Greensboro. Another co-owner of that business, Claudia Shivers, is serving nearly two years in prison after she was convicted on one count of conspiring to defraud the United States by filing false tax returns.
In a news release Thursday, federal prosecutors said U.S. Magistrate Judge L. Patrick Auld sentenced Cole to six months in prison. Cole pleaded guilty to one count of failing to file a tax return on Sept. 27, 2019, less than a month after he was indicted. Auld also ordered that upon his release from prison, Cole will serve one year of supervised release and pay $179,547 in restitution.
Andrew Farris, Cole's attorney, declined to comment when reached at his office on Thursday.
Witherspoon was indicted in October 2019 on three counts of filing a false tax return and one count of failing to file a tax return. Federal prosecutors alleged that Witherspoon did not report income he made as a Forsyth County commissioner and that he underreported income from Chris's Rehablative Services. Indictments did not accuse Witherspoon of filing false tax returns for anyone else.
Witherspoon served two terms on the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. In 2018, Tonya McDaniels defeated Witherspoon for a seat on the board during the Democratic primary and went on to win the seat in the general election.
The former commissioner not only co-owned Quick Taxes LLC in Greensboro but also co-owned Fast Tax of Winston-Salem. Shivers owned the Winston-Salem tax preparation business with a third person, S. Wayne Patterson, a former magistrate and past president of the Winston-Salem chapter of the NAACP. Patterson, a former lawyer, was also convicted of filing false tax returns and was sentenced 13 months in prison.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Shivers, Patterson and two other people who have since been convicted — Kristyn Dion Daney and Rakeem Lenell Scales — conspired to prepare 519 false tax returns for Fast Tax and Quick Taxes that claimed $1.3 million in fraudulent tax refunds.
Both tax preparation companies have since been dissolved for failure to file annual reports, according to records from the N.C. Secretary of State. It is no longer active in North Carolina.
Chris's Rehablative Services has dissolved twice — first in 2012 and then again in 2017 for failure to file annual reports. The company is no longer active in Atlanta after the company was involuntarily dissolved for failing to file annual reports and for failing to maintain a registered agent.
Witherspoon is scheduled to go to trial on his charges on March 9. He is out on a $10,000 secured bond.