Tech Mogul Traveled the World, a Step Ahead of Taxman

Tech Mogul found after 20 years in Grand Cayman Island.

ByABC News
September 12, 2011, 6:24 PM

Sept.13, 2011— -- New court documents provide revealing details about the peripatetic life of William H. Millard, founder of California technology retail chain ComputerLand, who left the US two decades ago for exotic locales while amassing tens of millions in back taxes.

Mallard, 79, was recently found by private investigators in the Cayman Islands, touching off a flurry of court filings in an attempt to collect his back taxes . Once named one of America's wealthiest businessmen by Forbes, the tech mogul was worth an estimated $480 million in 1985.

Millard faces an outstanding tax bill of more than $59 million in Saipan, where he settled to pursue business opportunities before moving on to such places as Singapore, Hong Kong, Ireland, and finally, Grand Cayman Island.

Tech CEO Traveled the World, Now Faces $59 Million in Taxes

The tax fugitive's retail company once conducted an all-time high of $1.4 billion of business in 1984, according to a Forbes magazine article dated that year. He resigned as chairman of ComputerLand after a series of entanglements with investors in 1986, the New York Times reported.

After the sale of his retail chain in 1987 for nearly $250 million, Millard relocated with his family to Saipan, according to a commonwealth filing in federal courts in the U.S.

Following his move to Saipan, the largest of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Millard began building an elaborate castle on the island's shoreline and engaged in real estate development and energy expansion plans, according the Wall Street Journal.

The tech mogul lived comfortably in the remote Pacific island until 1990, but left there with his wife Patricia in August of that year.

In 1991, the Northern Marianas Islands' tax department mailed a deficiency notice tax bill to the Millards and their attorneys in the U.S., according to court documents.

Terry Giles, an attorney who worked for Millard at the time, told the Journal that he never received such notice on behalf of his ex-client.

"Bill paid his taxes in the Marianas on time and in full based on the tax code. They changed the law or made up some reason retroactively to try to chase Bill off the island," Giles said.

The bill in question has increased over the years in delinquent fees from $17 million to $59 million. Saipan claims Millard improperly took a deduction for the gains that was only entitled to filers who had lived on the island for at least 10 years.

Millard Found Shelter in Cayman Islands

Authorities in Saipan allege that thanks to an elaborate network of shell companies, bank accounts, family-owned entities and trusts in Florida, California, Canada and the Cayman Islands, Millard stowed his assets and traveled the world at will.

"This is one of the most sophisticated and complicated cases of offshore asset structuring that we have ever seen," Michael Kim, a prosecutor representing Saipan's case, told the Wall Street Journal.

Although commonwealth officials were able to trace Millard's movements in Singapore, Ireland, Brussels, Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands, authorities were never able to pinpoint his exact whereabouts.

Millard also relinquished his U.S. passport and acquired Irish citizenship, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But eventually Millard's love of globe-trotting caught up with him.

In 2010 Saipan hired law firm Kobre & Kim and private investigators to track down Millard, who was found in Orlando, Fla., during the Christmas season while visiting his children.

He was observed by an investigator on an outing at a holiday dinner with his daughter Barbara, according to court papers. The private investigator then staked out the daughter's home, where Millard was spotted on the property.

Millard was later followed by investigators to the airport, where he departed on a flight to the Cayman Islands and was unknowingly was trailed by investigators to his home.

Michael Kim, a prosecutor representing Saipan, and James R. Stump, assistant attorney general of the Northern Mariana Islands, did not return requests seeking comment.

No court date for the case against Millard has been set.