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Accountant gets more prison time

November 12, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Former Martinsburg accountant Michael L. Welshans, who is already serving a seven-year federal prison sentence for bilking the Internal Revenue Service, the state and 35 clients of more than $1.6 million, was sentenced to additional time in prison Friday.

Welshans was sentenced after pleading guilty to charges filed against him in three Berkeley County indictments.

He was not previously arraigned on the local indictments after federal charges were brought against him, according to Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely. Federal authorities only recently made Welshans available to answer to the local charges.

The three Berkeley County indictments contained 57 charges on violations such as embezzlement and filing false state personal income tax returns, according to court records.

The case involved clients who relied on Welshans to file their federal and state income tax returns, said Games-Neely. Instead of the money going into an escrow account as required by federal and state law, it went into a spending account, Games-Neely said.

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Many clients' taxes were not paid, Games-Neely said. In some cases, clients were forced to pay their taxes a second time because the money could not be found.

"That's the really disgusting thing," Games-Neely said.

In a Friday afternoon hearing before Berkeley County Circuit Court Judge Christopher Wilkes, Welshans pleaded guilty to nine counts of embezzlement, seven counts of attempting to evade state taxes and one count of false pretense, said Games-Neely.

The rest of the charges were dismissed by Games-Neely.

Welshans asked Wilkes to spare him more prison time and focus on ways for him to make restitution. Wilkes, citing the number of victims in the case, decided to give more prison time.

Welshans faces a maximum time of 108 years under West Virginia law, although that is unlikely, said Games-Neely. He could serve less than the minimum 11-year sentence if he is credited for time already served, Games-Neely said.

Welshans will begin serving the additional sentence after his federal sentence ends in 18 months.

Welshans expressed sorrow in a statement to Wilkes. He said some of the victims in the case were his best friends.

"I never associated the money I was using with the people themselves," said Welshans.

In the federal case, Welshans was ordered in 1995 to serve seven years and three months. That term was to run concurrently with a federal sentence of six years and nine months he was given in 1994 for robbing two Maryland banks at gunpoint in the summer of 1993.

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