Kingsport business owner faces felony tax evasion charges

Rain Smith • Feb 19, 2014 at 5:38 PM

A Kingsport paint and body shop owner has been jailed on 34 counts of felony tax evasion, marking his second arrest on revenue related violations.

James William "Bill" McConnell, 78, of Meadowview, Va., was indicted last week by a Sullivan County grand jury. On Tuesday he turned himself in to special agents of the Tennessee Department of Revenue at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office in Blountville.

State revenue officials say McConnell, owner of Bill McConnell Auto Painting and Body Works on East Stone Drive, willfully attempted to evade paying $30,813.21 in sales tax. His alleged falsified returns were filed from January of 2009 through October of 2011.

Each of the 34 counts McConnell faces are a class E felony. The Department of Revenue says McConnell could be sentenced up to a maximum of two years in the state penitentiary and fined $3,000 on each charge.

“The majority of businesses pay appropriate taxes,” said Revenue Commissioner Richard H. Roberts in a press release. “I hope this case will serve as a warning to others who think they can get away with tax fraud in Tennessee. We will continue to pursue criminal activity and prosecute tax evaders to assure fairness in our tax structure for Tennesseans.”

According to records at the Sullivan County Clerk's Office in Blountville, McConnell previously pleaded guilty to 25 counts of violation of revenue law in 1998. He was sentenced to four years incarceration, but online records from the Tennessee Department of Corrections state his sentenced ended in September of 2000. In that case he was also ordered to pay $45,838 in restitution. McConnell is well known across the region, thanks to his long running paint shop commercials which boast, "We make bodies beautiful!" His catch phrase is often followed by an on-screen female who replies, "That's right, Bill!"

As of Wednesday afternoon McConnell remained held in the Sullivan County jail on $200,000 bond.

Staff writer Nick Shepherd contributed to this report.

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