It looks like the federal government is turning up the heat on National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre, 70. The NRA boss’s organization has been under threat of dissolution since New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) filed a civil lawsuit in early August, but LaPierre also reportedly faces potential criminal legal peril.
The Wall Street Journal, citing two unnamed sources familiar with the matter, reported on Monday that the IRS is investigating LaPierre for potential criminal tax fraud.
James’s lawsuit accused LaPierre of using a “poison pill contract” to ensure he would receive an income for life from the NRA worth more than $17 million and of consolidating power within the organization by nefarious means. He used his position to “intimidate, punish, and expel anyone at a senior level who raised concerns about his conduct,” resulting in the diverting of “millions of dollars away from the charitable mission, imposing substantial reductions in its expenditures for core program services, including gun safety, education, training, member services and public affairs.”
LaPierre’s personal expenditures while serving as the head of a nonprofit organization were allegedly lavish.
Among the dozens of alleged examples of spending for which LaPierre was reimbursed included: “private jet travel for purely personal reasons; trips to the Bahamas to vacation on a yacht owned by the principal of numerous NRA vendors; use of a travel consultant for costly black car services; gifts for favored friends and vendors; lucrative consulting contracts for ex-employees and board members; and excessive security costs.”
LaPierre was accused of traveling with his family to the Bahamas by private plane at least eight times in an approximate three-year period, costing the organization more than $500,000. On many of those trips, LaPierre and his family were gifted the use of a 107-foot yacht owned by an NRA vendor. He and his wife also traveled to Africa for all-expense paid safaris, gifted by an NRA vendor.
Additionally, LaPierre allegedly received than “$1.2 million in expense reimbursements in just a four-year period for expenditures that included gifts for favored friends and vendors; travel expenses for himself and his family; and membership fees at golf clubs, hotels, and other member clubs.”
As the Wall Street Journal noted, James said at the press conference announcing the lawsuit that she was, indeed, referring the case to the IRS. P. Kent Correll, a LaPierre lawyer, and William A. Brewer III, an outside attorney for the NRA, both told the newspaper that they were not aware of an IRS inquiry. Correll said comment would be “premature”; Brewer said that the NRA would cooperate with “any appropriate requests for assistance.”
There was no information about what stage the reported IRS probe is in and it is not clear if there actually will be charges. But according to the Journal, the investigation is likely focusing on whether or not LaPierre intentionally underreported his income on his W-2 forms to evade taxes.
Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]
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