North Carolina woman pleads guilty, faces up to five years in prison for failure to pay employment taxes withheld from paychecks

Published 7:18 am Thursday, December 29, 2022

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A Garner woman pleaded guilty on Wednesday, December 7, 2022 for willfully failing to pay over employment taxes withheld from employee paychecks to the federal government, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Eastern District of North Carolina. Sharon Coker Burke faces a statutory maximum of 60 months in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release at sentencing, which is set for the March 7, 2023 term.

According to court documents and other information presented in court, Burke co-owned and managed the tax and financial affairs Bear Creek Landscape Associates, a commercial landscaping business headquartered in Garner.

“In her position, Burke was responsible for ensuring the timely filing of federal employment tax returns (Forms 941) for the business and the payment of all associated taxes – namely, amounts withheld from the paychecks of Bear Creek employees, including federal income taxes and Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes allocated for Social Security and Medicare programs,” stated the release. “However, between 2003 and 2021, Burke routinely failed to pay over the withheld taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as required, resulting in a tax underpayment of more than $800,000. During this same period, in response to IRS collection activity, Bear Creek rebranded itself as ‘KBE Landscaping’ initially and, later, as ‘KB Landscaping.’ But under Burke’s stewardship as the responsible officer, the successor companies continued to accrue significant employment tax liabilities due to non-payment.”

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Michael Easley, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after arraignment by Chief U.S. District Judge Richard E. Myers II. IRS Criminal Investigation investigated the case and Assistant United States Attorney Adam F. Hulbig prosecuted the case for the government.