The Utah Supreme Court has ruled that the long arm of the taxman may reach beyond the grave and into a dead man's pockets.

In a decision released Thursday, the Utah Supreme Court ordered the state Court of Appeals to review a decision in the case of Edward Dean Christensen, who was convicted in 1991 of felony and misdemeanor failure to pay taxes.Christensen was sentenced to several jail and prison terms, and was ordered to pay back taxes, fines and victim restitution surcharges.

Christensen died while the appeal of his conviction was pending, and the appeals court held that the judgment died with him.

But the high court unanimously found that Christensen's death does not mean the end of his appeal, and depending on what the appeals court rules, he may still be liable for payment.

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"The state contends that Utah statutory law provides that a criminal restitution award shall have the same effect as a civil judgment, and that because a civil judgment survives the death of a judgment debtor, so should a restitution award," wrote Chief Justice Gordon Hall.

Christensen was convicted in April 1991 of 10 counts of state tax violations.

Christensen's attorney, Tom Jones, said Thursday that he was not at his office and had not read the ruling and so could not comment.

Without his files, Jones said he could not say how much restitution, back taxes and fines Christensen had been assessed, except to say it was a "very substantial" amount.

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