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Neways founders sent to prison for tax evasion

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A judge has sentenced the founders of an international cosmetics and health-supplement company based in Utah County to federal prison time.

During sentencing hearings Wednesday, Thomas E. Mower Sr. and his former wife, Leslie DeeAnn Mower, were sentenced to just under three years and just over two years respectively for cheating the Internal Revenue Service out of more than $1 million in taxes by failing to report the cashing of an estimated $3.2 million in overseas commission checks.

A federal jury found them guilty in March 2005, of one count of conspiracy to defraud and six counts of tax evasion. However, attorneys for the pair argued Wednesday to keep their clients out of prison.

Thomas Mower's attorney, Max Wheeler, argued that the court would be punishing the employees of Neways Inc., based in Springville, by denying them Mower's ability to manage the business.

Wheeler pointed out that Neways is in the process of building the largest office building in Utah County, one that could employ more than 1,200 people with an estimated $55 million in income. Neways sells cosmetics, skin-care products, health supplements and other personal care items in the United States and at least 35 other countries.

Wheeler urged the court to give Thomas Mower consideration for his reported history of charitable contributions to orphans in Costa Rica and handicapped children in Russia, as well as the support of an Olympic wrestler.

DeeAnn Mower's lawyer, Anneli Smith, said sending her client to prison would deny Mower's 30-year-old emotionally "disabled" son the one person central to his life. "He finds the world terrifying," Smith said. "She is the center of his universe. ...She's the sun in his world."

But assistant U.S. Attorney Caryn Mark pointed out that Thomas Mower made hundreds of thousands of dollars in charitable contributions at a time when he only reported $100,000 in personal income to the IRS.

Mark alleged that DeeAnn Mower was responsible for opening several bank accounts with false information and fake Social Security numbers, including using her 30-year-old son's Social Security number, off by one number.

Regarding the son's dependence, Mark pointed out that he has a driver's license and a hunting license and has attended out-of-state hunting trips without his mother's supervision.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball did consider Mower's charity work and sentenced him to serve 33 months in federal prison and three years' probation. Mower was also ordered to pay a $75,000 fine and must cooperate fully with the IRS in filing amended tax returns for 1992 to 1997.

Kimball found no supporting evidence of DeAnn Mower's son's dependence and sentenced her to serve 27 months in prison with three years of probation and a $60,000 fine. Smith said DeeAnn Mower has already submitted amended tax returns.

Both Mowers were also ordered to surrender information to the IRS for tax years 1989 to 2002.

Former Neways Newways corporate attorney James L. Thompson was sentenced to 25 months in prison with 24 months' probation and no fine for his part in the scheme.

Wheeler asked the court to stay Thomas Mower's sentence pending an appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Kimball said he would entertain the request once a written motion was filed.

The Mowers have been given time to get their personal and business affairs in order before surrendering to federal prison officials by Nov. 13.

E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com