Coal broker charged with filing false returns and obstructing the IRS


Date: May 16, 2023


A federal grand jury in Charlotte, North Carolina, returned an indictment today charging a man with filing false individual tax returns and attempting to obstruct an IRS audit and criminal investigation.

According to the indictment, Vondie Brunty owned and operated West Star Management Inc. (WSM), a company that, from 2005 to April 2015, co-owned a coal brokerage business through which WSM received income on behalf of Brunty. Brunty allegedly caused WSM to surrender its ownership of the coal brokerage in approximately April 2015, but he allegedly continued to earn income through WSM by, among other things, hauling coal for the coal brokerage and selling timber rights to a lumber business.

The indictment alleges that, despite earning income, Brunty did not file personal tax returns for 2011 through 2013. During an IRS audit of the unfiled returns, Brunty allegedly made multiple false and misleading statements and did so again during an interview with IRS criminal investigators. The indictment further charges that, after learning of the criminal investigation, Brunty late-filed a 2014 tax return in January 2021 and a 2015 tax return in August 2021, both of which allegedly underreported his income.

Brunty faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison for obstructing the IRS and for each false return count. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department's Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Dena J. King for the Western District of North Carolina made the announcement.

IRS-Criminal Investigation is investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Ashley Stein and Alexander Effendi of the Justice Department's Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Caryn Finley of the Western District of North Carolina are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.