Presque Isle lawyer pleads guilty to tax crimes

Posted June 22, 2011, at 6:45 p.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A Presque Isle lawyer who was charged in Augusta District Court last year with six misdemeanor counts each of failing to file and failing to pay Maine income taxes pleaded guilty to the crimes on Tuesday.

Alan Harding, 57, will be sentenced in Kennebec County Superior Court in September, although an exact date has not been scheduled for the proceedings. He also will appear before the Board of Overseers of the Bar in Bangor. The bar hearing originally was set for June 29, but an official said Wednesday that a death has forced the board to postpone the matter. The hearing has not yet been rescheduled. The board is seeking Harding’s immediate indefinite suspension from the practice of law.

Harding, who has practiced law since 1978, was charged with six counts of failure to make and file Maine income tax returns and six counts of failure to pay Maine state income taxes, according to the state Attorney General’s Office. He has an office in Presque Isle.

Harding also is involved in several civic organizations.

After an inquiry by an agent of Maine Revenue Services in Augusta, the case was turned over to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

Harding initially pleaded not guilty to all charges. Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein, who is prosecuting the case, said the misdemeanor charges stemmed from Harding’s failure to file tax returns and pay income taxes from 2004 to 2009.

Harding’s attorney, Walter McKee, said Wednesday that the income taxes in question were personal taxes. He said he did not want to discuss why Harding did not pay the taxes at this point.

“There are a whole host of reasons, but we are going to discuss those at the sentencing,” he said. “It isn’t something we’re going to talk about right now.”

McKee said Harding has now filed all of his old returns and paid the related outstanding tax bills, along with interest and penalties.

“That came to around $100,000,” McKee said Wednesday. The bill was paid in March.

McKee said Harding could face 180 days in jail with all but a maximum of 45 days suspended and a year of administrative release.

“The maximum sentence will be 45 days,” he said. “But I am going to argue that he serve no jail time. He has acknowledged what he did and paid what he owed.”

Four of Harding’s former clients submitted complaints to the board, including one woman who said that Harding had neglected her legal matter and overbilled her, and another who said he neglected her personal injury claim. One man filed a complaint regarding how Harding represented him in a bankruptcy matter. A Presque Isle physician also reported that Harding “abruptly abandoned his advocacy of her” and then offered himself as a mediator to negotiate the dispute between the physician and the other involved party without first privately discussing or reviewing the offer with his client. Another complaint came from the Board of Overseers of the Bar and involved Harding’s failure to pay state income taxes.

“A review of Harding’s repeated failures to properly discharge his professional duties warrants the board’s intervention and the court’s immediate oversight,” an official wrote in the board’s petition to temporarily suspend Harding’s license. ”Additionally, due to Harding’s persistent long-standing failure to properly file and pay his income taxes, there is further reason to be concerned about his fitness and trustworthiness as a Maine practitioner. While it is true that he has apparently now complied with that obligation, such compliance only occurred after he was criminally charged.”

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