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Giammona pleads innocent to five tax evasion felonies

Former Northwest Techni-cal College Provost Charles Peter Giammona, who left that position in 2008 amid charges of financial misconduct, pleaded innocent Monday to five felony counts of tax eva-sion.

Giammona, 61, is charged with four counts felony failure to file tax returns, report or documents, and felony present-ing false claims to a public officer/attempting theft from a public fund. He appeared before Beltrami County Dis-trict Judge Shari Schluchter, and will make his next appear-ance Jan. 12.

Each tax evasion felony is punishable by a prison sen-tence of up to five years, up to a $10,000 fine, or both. He faces up to 10 years in prison, up to a $20,000 fine, or both for the charge of presenting false claims to a public body.

Giammona, who was hired as Northwest Tech provost in June 2004, was terminated July 2008 after financial impropri-ates were discovered, including when he allegedly made hun-dreds of dollars of personal purchases of goods and ser-vices with public funds under false claims that the transac-tions were Minnesota State Colleges and Universities-related.

He allegedly evaded pay-ment of sales and use taxes, and left Bemidji to take a job as a consultant in Kabul, Afghani-stan,

According to the criminal complaint, Giammona was "involuntarily terminated" based upon financial miscon-duct disclosed by a special investigation conducted by MnSCU's Office of Internal Auditing.

Giammona's misconduct allegedly consisted primarily of intentional misuse of MnSCU funds for personal purposes. Giammona had used MnSCU monies to finance personal trips for himself, the complaint states. He spent public funds for "strictly personal purposes, activities and relationships including charging more than $1,000 of printing expenses for posters memorializing his deceased paramour against MnSCU funds."

Giammona's girlfriend, Damita Luvelle Wells-Hairston, died March 7, 2008, as the result of a car crash.

Additionally, Giammona al-legedly improperly claimed and received personal reim-bursement for expenses he had already charged against public accounts, the complaint states, adding the total amount exceeded $26,000.

In the course of the MnSCU internal audit, a number of e-mails, memoranda and other correspondence and docu-ments were discovered which suggested that he had engaged in willful evasion of Minnesota income, sales and use tax laws, states the complaint.

The Criminal Investigation Division of the state Depart-ment of Revenue was con-tacted and a separate investi-gation was conducted.

In 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, Giammona was paid an annual salary ranging from $90,000 to $103,000 as provost. "That salary is many times the income level at which a Minne-sota resident is mandated to file a state income tax return, regardless of whether any income tax liability is owed or not," states the complaint.

In 2006, he purchased a home in Beltrami County and personally applied for and received a homestead property tax classification. In his appli-cation, he represented that he was a resident of Beltrami County for voting purposes. Additionally he stated that his property's address was where he filed his income tax returns.

"That representation was not true," the complaint alleges. "In fact, Giammona had not filed either Minnesota or fed-eral income tax returns for the years 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007," it states.

Giammona "deliberately and illegally attempted to manipu-late or frustrate that process," it alleges "He did so by falsely claiming 15 exemptions on a W-4 form he personally com-pleted on June 14, 2004, at the time that he was hired. He maintained his excessive claims of exemptions at least through 2006, despite warnings from MnSCU."

During those years he also reportedly received income from a number of other sour-ces. For example he received a lump sum payment of $44,000 from his former employer, Fisk University. He also received a substantial taxable disburse-ment of funds from a retire-ment account.

Moreover, the MnSCU mon-ies Giammona allegedly mis-appropriated for his personal use constituted income to him, the complaint states. He re-portedly filed no tax returns reflecting the receipt of in-come.

Mortgage foreclosure on his rural Bemidji home was filed in April 2008, with nearly $257,000 in arrears.

Giammona has worked as a college professor and senior academic administrator.

Pioneer News Clerk Betty Ogren contributed to this report.