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Former Portland Marathon president sentenced for tax fraud

The former Portland Marathon president and event director pleaded guilty and received a sentence in federal court this week for tax evasion on funds he stole from a charitable organization that supports the race.

Lester V. Smith, Jr., 83, of Tomball, Texas, got three years of federal probation, including eight months of home confinement. He must also pay $411,279 in restitution to the IRS, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon.

Before receiving the sentence, he pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to evade and defeat income taxes.

Smith served as the president and event director of Portland Marathon Inc. (PMI) for nearly 35 years. The organization, at the time, planned and organized the Portland Marathon.

Smith managed PMI's day-to-day operations and finances and was the only person able to approve expenses paid from the organization's business bank account.

However, from 2012 to 2017, he made or directed others to make unapproved fund transfers from PMI's bank account to his personal checking account, paid his credit cards with PMI funding, and wrote unauthorized checks from PMI to himself.

"On one occasion, Smith used a PMI check to purchase a $60,000 Infiniti sport utility vehicle," the release said. "Smith also used stolen funds to pay for home remodeling projects, shopping sprees at department stores, home décor, furniture, and other luxury goods and services."

Colluding with another person who ran a for-profit company called Next Events Productions, Smith made payments to the company, which transferred some of the money into his personal bank account.

Additionally, Smith underreported over $1.2 million in taxable income to the IRS. Between 2012 and 2017, he also failed to disclose to the "accountant payments received from PMI, the purchase of the Infiniti SUV with PMI funds, or funds received from PMI via Next Events," the release said.

In February 2022, a federal grand jury in Portland issued a seven-count indictment against Smith, charging him with wire fraud and attempting to evade and defeat income taxes.

The FBI and IRS Criminal Investigation investigated this case; Claire M. Fay, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon, prosecuted it.


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