Treasury has collected over $50 million in taxes owed by people since filing charges for evasion
By The Star Staff
After the island Justice and Treasury departments filed charges against car “influencer” Waldemar Santos in April for tax evasion, more than six people have paid their taxes amounting to over $50 million,Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea said Thursday.
Parés Alicea made his remarks in an interview on the radio program “Normando en la Mañana.”
Parés Alicea said the delinquent taxpayers were residents of Puerto Rico and not beneficiaries of Acts 20 and 22, which provide tax breaks to certain investors who move to Puerto Rico.
Tax evasion charges were filed earlier this week against another “influencer” identified as 32-year-old Jorge Christian Batista Agront, better known as Chris Agront, a resident of Dorado and owner of a firm called JetTrades LLC that recruited people to invest in the international currency market Forex. As reported by the STAR on Thursday, Batista Agront allegedly failed to report over $11 million in profits on his income tax returns. He and his company owe an estimated $7.6 million to 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 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.
Later on Thursday, Parés Alicea announced on social networks the confiscation of a Lamborghini that belonged to Batista Agront.
“It is up to the Treasury Department to be responsive to the digital age of emerging markets,” Parés Alicea said.
The car is a 2010 Lamborghini Urus valued at $349,599. In addition, the “influencer” had a 2021 Mercedes Benz G550 with a value of $239,884.
San Juan Superior Court Judge Raiza Cajigas Campbell on Wednesday found cause for arrest against Batista Agront, 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.
Parés Alicea said his mission is to lower tax rates and make delinquent taxpayers pay. Nonetheless, it was not clear if the department will go after individuals who move to Puerto Rico to avoid paying federal taxes and enjoy tax breaks.
Since 2012, real estate developers, crypto currency tycoons and now big-name influencers have relocated to Puerto Rico to enjoy unparalleled tax exemptions. The incentives, which apply mostly to non-native residents, have brought needed revenue to the island’s battered economy, but have also deepened inequity on the island, driving up housing prices, pushing people out of their own neighborhoods, and making some Puerto Rico residents feel like outsiders on their home island.