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Jason Williams pleads not guilty to federal tax fraud charges

Last month, Jason Williams was indicted on 11 charges related to allegations that he filed fraudulent tax documents over several years.

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans City Council member and candidate for Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams pleaded not guilty to federal tax fraud charges on Friday.

Last month, Williams was indicted on 11 charges related to allegations that he filed fraudulent tax documents over several years.

The indictment claims Williams owes more than $200,000 in taxes after falsifying documents and not reporting cash payments he received for legal services.

Prosecutors allege that William, as owner of the Jason Rogers Williams & Associates law firm, conspired with Nicole Burdett, an attorney with the firm who performed administrative functions, to reduce Williams' tax liability from 2013-17. 

According to the indictment, Williams directed Burdett to include his personal expenses with the law firm's finances when providing them to a tax preparer as a way to increase his own tax return. 

The indictment says Burdett would then tell Williams' tax preparer to inflate the business expenses even more and wouldn't let him file until she and Williams were satisfied with the reduced tax liability number.

The indictment says he knocked more than $200,000 off his taxes from 2013-17 by doing so.

The indictment also alleged that Williams did not report $66,516 in cash payments received between June 2017 and August 2018.

If convicted, Williams and Burdett both face several years in prison.

Williams, who is a city councilman-at-large for the city of New Orleans, has denied wrongdoing ahead of the indictment and blamed his tax preparer for the improper documents. 

A statement from Williams' attorney identified his tax preparer as Henry Timothy. According to attorney Billy Gibbens, Timothy had been misrepresenting himself as a CPA.

"Initially, Mr. Timothy stood by his work. He assured us that he – not Jason – made all tax decisions, that he handled Jason’s returns the same as all his clients’, and that there was nothing wrong with Jason’s taxes," Gibbens said. "However, after Mr. Timothy learned that he was under investigation by the IRS, he changed his tune and now claims that Jason 'pressured' him to take improper deductions. That is a lie."

At Friday’s arraignment, the prosecutor requested special conditions for Williams’ release on a $50,000 bond, asking that he not try to contact two government witnesses: tax preparer Henry Timothy and Williams’ ex-wife, Bridget Barthelemy, daughter of former New Orleans Mayor Sidney Barthelemy.

Williams and Burdett joined the hearing by video conference from the office of Burdett’s attorney Mike Magner. Magner and Williams’ attorney Billy Gibbens promised the court the only contact with Timothy would be with his attorney as a part of a civil lawsuit Williams and Burdett have filed against Timothy.

In a statement released after Williams' not guilty plea was entered, Gibbens said his client was "excited to take the first step in ensuring justice in this case."

Williams is running against Leon Cannizzaro for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office this Fall.

RELATED: Timing of Councilman Williams' indictment so close to DA election unusual, expert says

RELATED: City Councilman Jason Williams indicted on tax fraud charges

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