OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced securing a guilty plea against a Richmond business owner for defrauding the state of California of over $1.3 million through tax evasion. Over the course of three years, Deborah Reynolds consistently withheld sales tax from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) in revenue generated through her yacht sales and leasing companies located in Richmond and Oakland. Reynolds pleaded guilty in Contra Costa County Superior Court to felony sales tax evasion and felony grand theft.
“Tax evasion is not a victimless crime — it hurts Californians by depriving the state of critical resources and services that families need,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Deborah Reynolds purposefully evaded her obligations as a taxpayer and tried to skirt the law. I want to thank the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, whose critical efforts were key to stopping her unlawful behavior. My office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute those who disregard the rule of law.”
“This case uncovered the potential loss of millions of dollars in sales tax revenue for California, and it underscores the high cost of tax evasion,” said California Department of Tax and Fee Administration Director Nick Maduros. “We’ll continue to work with our state and federal partners to bring these important cases forward, safeguarding our tax system and deterring others who might be tempted to evade their liabilities.”
The plea agreement was the result of a joint investigation conducted with the CDTFA and the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Special Prosecutions Section. In March 2019, CDTFA began an investigation into Reynolds’ business practices after a standard audit suggested she was providing falsified sales tax records. Shortly after, DOJ joined the investigation. During the course of the investigation, vessel sale contracts, signed purchase agreements, invoices providing the breakdown of sales tax collected and Reynolds' own journal entries, revealed over $1.3 million of underreported sales tax to CDTFA between 2017 and 2020. Reynolds pleaded guilty to one felony count of sales tax evasion and one felony count of grand theft.
As part of her plea, she will serve one year in state prison and one year under mandatory supervision, and will pay back the full amount she defrauded the state of California, $1.3 million, in restitution.