Tax evasion charges filed against wealthy ‘influencer’
By John McPhaul
Local authorities filed tax evasion charges on Wednesday against Jorge Christian Batista Agront, an “influencer” and “motivator” with a large number of followers on social networks who owes the island Treasury Department about $7.6 million after allegedly failing to comply with his duty to report more than $11 million in personal and corporate income taxes during the years 2017 to 2022.
An investigative alliance between the island Treasury Department and Department of Justice revealed a new pattern of tax evasion of a multi-million-dollar magnitude and led to the charges against Batista Agront.
“This is the most sophisticated tax evasion case that the public ministry has seen and at the same time the most unfortunate, because it involves a young businessman recognized by the media as a successful person and an example for many to follow,” Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea said at a press conference. “The problem is that we found out about Chris Agront’s achievements through the press and digital media, but we didn’t find him at SURI [the Unified Internal Revenue System]. As I have said on other occasions, evaders do not steal from the government, but from the people, from the wage earners who get up in the morning to go to work and fulfill their tax responsibility. Seeing people who call themselves ‘successful entrepreneurs’ and live the life of a millionaire, but make no attempt to meet their tax responsibility, certainly angers me. This is the most sophisticated tax evasion case that we have been presented with and it is also a type of crime that we will continue to tackle at the Department of the Treasury.”
The Justice Department’s Economic Crimes Division filed five charges for not filing returns, in violation of Section 6030.11 of the Internal Revenue Code; four of them for Batista Agront’s personal payroll and one related to the payroll of his company, Jettrades. The influencer, who claims to be an expert in the cryptocurrency market, could face three to eight years in prison for each charge and a fine of up to $20,000.
San Juan Superior Court Judge Raiza Cajigas Campbell found cause for arrest against the accused, who acquiesced to the determination of the court. Bail was set on a lump sum bond of $100,000.
The influencer also markets himself as a financial educator. He uses digital platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook to sell courses entitled “One Day Mastermind” to “create millionaires” in which he charges up to $5,000 per course. In his videos, he shows off his extravagant lifestyle, which includes lodging in exclusive hotels, luxury cars, designer clothes, jewelry, watches, private jet trips around the world such as Rome, India, Dubai, Europe, Australia, and the Sahara, among other places. In addition, he highlights that he earns more than a million dollars a month.
Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández stressed the importance of prosecuting this type of crime.
“Economic crimes deal a deadly blow to our island, especially at this historic moment,” he said. “People who profit and fail to comply with their tax responsibility harm other vulnerable citizens who do not have sufficient resources to have a good quality of life. For this reason, this investigative alliance between the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury becomes more important. We will continue to fight tax evasion and prosecute this type of high-profile cases, of people with ample purchasing power who do not pay the treasury what they are legally obligated to pay, thereby hindering services for the Puerto Rican people.”
Under the pattern of non-compliance described by the authorities, the creator of content such as “My First Million,” “I Made Myself in Puerto Rico” and “I Bought $70,000.00 in Shoes and Clothes in One Day,” stopped reporting to the Treasury Department income amounting to $5,487,101 as an individual, and as to the limited liability company Jettrades LLC, the amount of $5,687,098.