FBI probes sale of film tax credits
Former Baton Rouge film producer Gregory M. Walker is under federal investigation for the alleged sale of approximately $1 million in state film tax credits he did not own, according to a court-filed FBI affidavit.
In a telephone interview from Austin, Texas, Walker said he mistakenly had sold tax credits he did not own. He said there was no criminal intent in his sale of other people’s tax credits last year in Baton Rouge.
“I’ve done hundreds of tax-credit deals, and this is just one mistake,” Walker said in the April 18 interview.
Walker is 45, according to testimony he gave in a Texas civil suit.
FBI Special Agent Joshua C. Morrill said in an affidavit Jan. 11 that Walker admitted last year he deliberately signed another man’s name to tax credits that Walker did not own. Walker then sold those credits to Baton Rouge accountant and investment broker Peggy Persac’s Strategies for Investment LLC, the agent added.
Morrill wrote that Walker admitted those actions during a Sept. 26 meeting with officials of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development. The FBI agent added that the meeting was recorded by officials of the Louisiana Office of Inspector General.
Walker stated that he did not know the tax credits already had been sold by their owners, Morrill reported. The agent added, however, that Walker explained he sold the credits because their owners controlled a film production company that owed Walker money.
“If I knew they were already sold, obviously, I never would have done that,” Morrill quoted Walker as telling state officials in September.
The FBI agent reported in his affidavit that Persac paid Walker $971,418 of her investors’ money for the tax credits.
“Persac never met (the owner of the tax credits), nor did she know who (he) was,” Morrill said in his affidavit. “Persac received all of the transfer certificates from Walker.”
Records of a civil suit filed Jan. 14 in Baton Rouge with U.S. District Judge James J. Brady show the bogus sale of tax credits may have totaled nearly $1.2 million. And that sale caused problems for Persac, 22 of her investors and her insurance company, court records show.
CAMICO Mutual Insurance Co. filed the suit against Persac and an accounting firm in which she is a partner.
The insurer asks Brady for a judgment that states CAMICO is not responsible for covering any losses because Persac’s Strategies for Investment LLC was not protected by the insurance policy held by Persac and her accounting firm.
On the strength of Morrill’s affidavit, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Riedlinger granted the FBI warrants in January to search Internet service providers in Milpitas, Calif., and North Bergen, N.J., for emails sent between May 1, 2010, and Jan. 10, 2013.
The FBI wanted all communications between Walker, Persac, and the people and firms that owned the tax credits Walker sold to Persac. The agents also wanted copies of all communications between those people and officials at both the Louisiana Department of Economic Development and Louisiana Department of Revenue.
Nearly a year before Walker sold other people’s tax credits to Persac’s investment firm, the Internal Revenue Service filed a lien for more than $4.3 million against Walker in Baton Rouge.
From Austin, Walker said that lien was filed because taxes withheld from employee paychecks at hospital companies he once managed were mistakenly not forwarded to the IRS.
The responsibility for payment of those taxes belongs to him, Walker said, because: “I was the chief executive officer.”
Walker said he negotiated for a lower tax-debt amount that he declined to reveal.
“We came up with a number the IRS thought was fair,” Walker said. He added that he is erasing that IRS debt over an eight-year repayment schedule.
Walker may face some financial problems at the moment, but as manager of a firm owned by trusts of his four minor children, he and a number of business associates were awarded $65 million at a Houston jury trial in December. That award was against a Texas bank that Walker and his associates alleged had unfairly seized control of three of their hospital companies.
On Friday, neither U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. nor Walker’s attorney, Michael S. Walsh, would discuss the FBI investigation. “This is an ongoing investigation, and I must politely decline to comment,” Walsh said.