May 23, 2018
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Arrest warrant issued for fisherman accused of failing to pay income tax since 2005

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — A 37-year-old fisherman is wanted for failing to pay state income taxes over the past eight years.

Judge Patricia Worth issued an arrest warrant Thursday morning in Rockland District Court for Steven W. Ward Jr. of Rockland, who neglected to appear at his hearing. He is wanted on charges of failure to file income tax returns and failure to pay those taxes on annual incomes exceeding $100,000.

A request by the defendant to postpone the court date was rejected earlier this month by Judge Susan Sparaco.

“I don’t want to send people to jail for not paying their debts, but the state shouldn’t have to go chasing after people,” Assistant Attorney General Gregg Bernstein told Worth on Thursday.

Ward owes $12,000 in taxes on gross adjusted incomes for three years. In 2005 he earned $101,000. The following year he made $143,000 and $120,000 in 2007, the prosecutor said.

The commercial fisherman also owes an unspecified amount of state taxes on $150,000 earned in 2011 and $105,000 in 2012, Bernstein said.

The Rockland man also owes an unspecified amount of income taxes dating back to the 1990s, the assistant attorney general said. The state is pursuing those back taxes through civil action in court because the statute of limitation for a criminal charge is six years.

“This gentleman has made a lot of money and is committing new violations,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein said an arrest order was also warranted based on Ward’s lengthy criminal history. He said there were 27 pages of criminal offenses by Ward that include a felony assault from 1998 and a felony operating after his license had been revoked in 2003.

Ward’s attorney Peter Rodway asked Worth not to issue the arrest warrant, saying his client is on board a fishing boat trying to earn money.

“He got a last minute chance to go fishing. I haven’t been able to reach him,” the defense attorney said.

Bernstein requested bail be set at $10,000 to cover a portion of what Ward owes the state. However the judge set bail at $1,000 cash.

If Ward pleads guilty to the offenses he will likely spend no more than 30 days in jail, Rodway said.

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