As expected, federal prosecutors have filed a series of new tax charges against Craig Taffaro, the former chief deputy of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and business partner of recently retired Sheriff Newell Normand.
The new grand jury indictment, handed up Thursday, includes six counts of federal tax evasion and six counts of filing a false tax return. The charges cover six tax years, from 2009 through 2014.
Taffaro is due to be arraigned on the new charges Oct. 11.
The charges focus exclusively on Taffaro's income from a side business he co-owns with Normand, his old boss. The two men formed the business — called CTNN Enterprise LLC, an amalgamation of their initials — shortly after Normand was elected sheriff in 2007.
The company acts as a broker for food and other items purchased by oilfield-services firms. All of its income comes from commissions paid on items purchased by Harvey Gulf International, an offshore firm run by the politically active Metairie businessman Shane Guidry. The commissions are paid by Pelican Marine, the firm that actually supplies the items to Harvey Gulf.
According to the indictment, Taffaro earned about $345,000 in sales commissions from CTNN over the six years covered by the charges. In filing his taxes, the documents say, he claimed that roughly 93 percent of that income was offset by business expenses and thus was not taxable.
The indictment makes clear that prosecutors believe Taffaro was padding his expenses, though the indictment does not say precisely how much tax they believe he improperly avoided paying.
Mike Magner, Taffaro's lawyer, noted that Taffaro paid between $41,954 and $51,575 in federal taxes in each of the years covered by the indictment, and suggested the government is making a mountain out of a molehill.
"The IRS has chosen to pile on and take a small civil tax dispute and turn it into a federal criminal tax prosecution for reasons known only to them," Magner said.
He added that Taffaro had a long record of public service and "helped make Jefferson Parish one of the safest communities of its size in the nation."
Normand, meanwhile, has said he has always paid all of his taxes due on his income from CTNN. While he was interviewed in connection with the government's case against Taffaro, he is not believed to be a target.
Normand abruptly retired as sheriff in August to become a talk-radio host on WWL-AM, a job he began earlier this month. He appointed former state Rep. Joe Lopinto to replace him on an interim basis.
Taffaro announced his retirement in June, shortly before he was indicted.
His trial originally was set for October, but it has been rescheduled for Jan. 22.
Taffaro has said he is eager to clear his name. He has told friends that if he can put the matter behind him, he would consider running for Jefferson Parish sheriff; the election for that post is expected to be held in March.