From O.J. to Dick Morris: Taxes Go Unpaid

Dionne Warwick moved from Beverly Hills in the 1990s, and in recent years reported living in her mother's home in Orange, N.J. That home was sold in 2006 after her mother's death. Warwick's current residence couldn't be determined.

California tax liens report Sinbad's mailing address as an office building in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park Ill. IRS tax liens list his residence as a multimillion-dollar home in Hidden Hills, Calif., owned by his brother, Michael Adkins.

On April 7, California reclassified more than 100 large tax debts as uncollectible and removed the delinquents from its published list. Those taken off the new list: Warwick, Sinbad and Livingston, the immigration attorney.

Trying New Tactics

In an effort to shame tax delinquents into paying, 15 states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin — and the District of Columbia have started publishing the names of people the governments say owe large amounts of taxes. The inexpensive tactic has worked.

Wisconsin collected more than $8 million after sending letters warning delinquents that their names would be posted on the Internet. In Connecticut, 70% of the state's top 100 tax delinquents reached payment agreements after getting such a letter.

Individuals and companies that prize respectability respond swiftly.

JPMorgan Chase sent a $115,000 check to Wisconsin the day after USA TODAY called about an unpaid tax bill. The banking giant had a defunct partnership that Wisconsin said owed $5 million.

"We owe some taxes and penalties but not $5 million," bank spokeswoman Christine Holevas says. "This tax issue fell through the cracks, but we will work promptly to settle it." The partnership was removed from the state's list after the $115,000 check arrived.

Real estate developer Kent Hoggan of Stockton, Calif., says he amended his tax return Jan. 15 after appearing on California's list as owing $5.8 million in back taxes. "I've had losses that would eliminate this tax liability," he says.

Some tax delinquents say they have no way to pay what they owe.

Disbarred attorney Michael Bledsoe of Elk Grove Village, Ill., is his state's fifth-largest tax delinquent, owing $224,260.

He served time in prison for mishandling clients' money and tax evasion.

Now, he's trying to rebuild his life. After prison, he lived with his father and at a friend's house. He's trying to start a career in sales.

"I lost everything," he says. "How do I pay this?"

Sometimes They Are Just Wrong

The size of tax debts on the published lists can be overstated — or plain wrong. Dinah White of Fort Atkinson, Wis., says she owes $300,000, not the $1.3 million the state claims. "Where they got that number, who knows?" she says.

Even innocent people have a hard time getting off the list:

Al Copeland, founder of the Popeyes fried chicken chain, was listed as Georgia's second-largest tax delinquent, owing $5.5 million. The giant accounting firm KPMG tried for more than a year to get Copeland off the delinquent list.

Copeland, a flamboyant New Orleans icon, died of cancer March 23. Georgia mistakenly thought the life-long Louisiana resident lived in Georgia during the 1990s, says Grant Coleman, his tax attorney.

After an inquiry from USA TODAY, the state reviewed the case, removed Copeland's name and canceled his tax liens.

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