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Long-time Kirkland arts patron sentenced for tax evasion

A long-time Kirkland arts patron who pleaded guilty to tax evasion was sentenced to 13 months in prison in Denver’s U.S. District Court on Oct. 24.

William G. Ballantine, 63, attempted to evade paying more than $110,000 in income tax on funds he received through his charitable foundation by laundering payments through a Colorado church, according to court documents. He was also ordered to pay more than $480,000 in restitution, plus a $20,000 fine.

According to the Durango Herald, Ballantine said he was “absolutely humiliated” by what he did and expressed remorse during his sentencing. Several family and friends were also shocked at what Ballantine did, as they knew him as “kind and generous,” according to the Herald, of which Ballantine was a former board member.

So generous, in fact, that just days before his sentencing, Ballantine, his wife and the National Philanthropic Trust made the largest-single donation to the Kirkland Arts Center in its 50-year history - $125,000.

Neither the Trust nor the Ballantines could be reached for comment.

A federal grand jury originally indicted Ballantine on eight counts of mail fraud, six counts of money laundering and two counts of income tax evasion. In April he pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion.

According to the indictment, Ballantine defrauded the William Ballantine Fund and National Philanthropic Trust (NPT) through an agreement with the NPT, a Pennsylvania nonprofit corporation.

Under the agreement, the trust managed the fund, which was funded by the Morley C. Ballantine Charitable Lead Trust Agreement. Ballantine owned the fund assets and was authorized to designate charitable entities as donation recipients from the fund, according to court documents.

The Kirkland man authorized the trust to mail $395,000 to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Durango, Colo., $35,000 of which he directed the church to keep as a donation. He also directed a church pastor to deposit the remaining $360,000 into his personal bank accounts, advising him that it was for a new charity to provide computers to poor children in Antigua, the documents continue.

Ballantine also impersonated an accountant and sent letters to the church from a CPA named “Theodore Campbell,” according to charging documents.

The NPT was not complicit in the case and cooperated fully with the IRS throughout the investigation, according to an NPT official.

The court received testimony from Ballantine’s family and friends – including a former Kirkland mayor – highlighting his service to the Kirkland community. This included his volunteer service for the Hopelink organization.

One long-time friend said in a letter he believed Ballantine’s “need to be ‘Santa Claus’ to others is the key reason he committed the crime to which he is responsible.”

His local philanthropy is most evident in several bronze sculptures he brought to the city years ago.

In 2002, Ballantine became involved in a controversy over the artworks that he had loaned for display to the City of Kirkland from his private art collection. Among them were a bronze statue of Robert Frost at City Hall and one called “Nike Girl” that was displayed on Lake Street South.

Ballantine removed the statues as he struggled to deal with financial difficulties partly brought on by a drawn-out divorce, according to court documents. The city initiated a fund-raising effort to preserve several of his other statues, including “Puddle jumpers” at Marina Park.

Clarification

* Editor's note: Following the publication of this article, an National Philanthropic Trust representative released the following statement regarding the donation to the Kirkland Arts Center:

"NPT facilitated a recent grant to the Kirkland Arts Center (KAC) at the recommendation of a Ballantine family member, through a pre-existing and separate donor-advised fund. In light of the previous grants to local organizations in Kirkland and the subsequent problems that ensued, the $125,000 grant to the KAC is subject to 'expenditure responsibility.' NPT requested this extra measure of oversight, which requires the grant recipient account for every grant dollar spent, to ensure proper usage of the funds."

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