Alleged Bootlegging Tax Evader Exonerated

Sometimes news agencies get a little caught up in the excitement of the story the tone is tilted a bit in one direction or another. I’ve personally known examples of innocent people basically crucified on the court of public opinion based on the media presentation (Even Biggest Loser does it. And that’s reality TV!). It looks like previously alleged tax evader CJ Eiras was subjugated to the wrong side of that treatment. Back in August of 2012, the Atlantic Beach man had Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco agents pour into his warehouse, tearing it apart searching for unregistered and untaxed liquor. An interviewed former FBI agent-turned-attorney was quoted as saying “I would say it’s exactly like modern day-bootlegging.” Read the original story here. It’s kind of crazy. CJ Eiras is the CEO of a successful liquor distributing and manufacturing operation, but he needs to “make more money” as a tax evader on some of his sales. I was¬†convinced he was guilty by the time I got to this line:

“the employees advised the suspect (Eiras) instructed them to construct barricades of debris to prevent access” to more rooms with unregistered and untaxed liquor

Les Mis Barracade

No word if they were required to sing

Fast forward to today, and the ‘bootlegging tax evader’ CEO has been cleared. So what changed from “guilty as sin” to “innocent”?¬†Turns out he really was storing unregistered liquor; however, it was stored as evidence of a previous civil case.

“It was a branding lawsuit that this liquor pertained to as evidence. So once that lawsuit ended there was no way to bottle this liquor and it had to remain, because environmentally you couldn’t destroy it, you couldn’t sell it, bottle it. You couldn’t do anything but store it,” said [CJ Eiras’ Attorney, Mitch] Stone.

If I’m putting these pieces together right, Eiras’ company got sued for some sort of branding issue (or maybe they sued, it’s not clear). As a result of the lawsuit, the company not only can’t sell, destroy, or otherwise discard dozens of barrels of product, the CEO has to go through two years or legal pains, lay off 70% of his staff, and cough up $2.34 million to not sit in a cell while this whole thing is being investigated. Wow. Maybe I’ll still to obvious tax evaders going forward rather than make assumptions based on harshly written articles. Look, Aaron Olson of New Jersey plead guilty today of being a tax evader. That means he’s guilty. Right?

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