Taxman defeats Winston Blackmore, polygamous leader of Bountiful

Court orders embattled leader to pay $150,000 in penalties


(CP file photo)

The leaders of the breakaway fundamentalist Mormon sect of Bountiful, B.C. have managed to avoid a successful criminal prosecution in all the years since it was founded in the mid-1940s, while openly practising polygamy and despite troubling allegations of forced underage marriages and child sexual exploitation. But that run of luck has ended for Winston Blackmore, its high-profile bishop.

In the end, shades of Al Capone, it was the taxman who did him in—and more trouble may be on the horizon.

In a Federal Tax Court ruling released this week, Justice Diane Campbell rejected Blackmore’s claims that the community of Bountiful, or at least the portion recognizing his leadership, constitutes a communal religious organization eligible for tax exemption. Campbell ruled that Blackmore underreported his income by some $1.8 million during a five-year period starting in 2000, a time when his declared annual income rarely exceeded $30,000. Not only will he have to pay taxes on the higher amount, he faces a penalty of almost $150,000 for hiding his income.

“Although there was no direct evidence that would lead me to conclude that the appellant knowingly made these false statements or omissions in his returns,” Campbell ruled, “there is abundant evidence that supports my conclusion that he ought to have known that he was misrepresenting his income.”

This was not your typical tax court case, to put it mildly.

The case was finally heard in early 2012 after frequent delays and a failed attempt by Blackmore and his legal team to win a sweeping ban on evidence, publication and some witness testimony. In the end he gave his own testimony under subpoena as a “compelled witness” with the expectation that his statements in this civil case can’t incriminate him in any future criminal trials.

Blackmore arrived each day at the Vancouver courtroom during the four weeks of hearing wearing a natty black suit and clutching a black-bound Book of Mormon. Campbell and federal Justice Department lawyers were bound by an equally unbending tome: the Canadian Income Tax Act.

“These appeals introduced unique and novel legal and factual issues that are not normally before this court,” Campbell wrote with judicial understatement. She wrote how she had to acquaint herself with the intricacies of Mormonism, Episcopal polity and apostolic success. “Many terms, such as ‘The Priesthood Work,’ ‘United Effort Plan,’ or ‘United Effort Plan Trust,’ ‘Law of Consecration’ and ‘Tithing’ were either completely new to me or I had no working knowledge of them.”

Her patience was tried by Blackmore’s often evasive or vague answers, and his convoluted spiritual explanations, frequently delivered sotto voice. He grudgingly admitted to having 21 “plural wives,” though he had trouble remembering the name of at least one. He fathered 47 children during the five years under review, which may help explain his inattention to the intricacies of the tax act. By some estimates he has more than 120 children.

Bountiful doesn’t appear on any B.C. map. It is the name that the fundamentalists call the community based at Lister, just a kilometre north of the U.S. border and seven kilometres from Creston, where some of the sect’s business dealings are based. Many operate under the Blackmore-controlled company J.R. Blackmore and Sons, which include several fencepost-manufacturing plants in B.C. and Alberta, as well as various logging and farm-related operations.

The Blackmore companies generate millions in revenue, and while they employ many members of the sect, much of their salary is often required to be handed back to the church. This prompted Justice Department lawyer Lynn Burch to remark during the trial that if Blackmore sees himself as a spiritual leader, “the role of a good shepherd is to shear a sheep, not skin it.”

Justice Campbell was not sold either on the idea that Blackmore was leading what constitutes a church under the tax act. “I have concluded that members of the community of Bountiful are not members of any religious organization but are a group of independent Mormon fundamentalists,” she ruled.

The judgment leaves Blackmore to deal with a hefty tax bill at a time when Bountiful remains bitterly divided. The community of some 1,500 split in 2002, with half following Blackmore’s leadership while the rest remained with the even more hard-core leadership of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints.

Another shoe may yet drop for the embattled community. The provincial government appointed lawyer Peter Wilson as a special prosecutor to look yet again at the possibility of laying criminal charges dealing with the forced marriage of underage “celestial wives.” Previous attempts have gone nowhere, often because of constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Wilson has been studying the file for almost 20 months now with no word when, or if, charges are likely. The Constitution, it seems, has even more loopholes than the Income Tax Act.

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Taxman defeats Winston Blackmore, polygamous leader of Bountiful

  1. Heh heh heh.

  2. Blackmore lost pretty handily (so far) on the Charter front. It’s not like he’s been winning victories till now and finally got nabbed, he’s LOST his two major court challenges – this one and trying to overturn polygamy laws.

  3. “Her patience was tried by Blackmore’s often evasive or vague answers, and his convoluted spiritual explanations, frequently delivered sotto voice.”

    Blackmore may not be a lawyer but it sounds like he knows how to answer questions like one.

  4. I wonder how big his baby bonus cheque is every month?

  5. Holy! Most inaccurate with false facts article. Hey macleans GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT.
    Enough bullshi$ in this article to warrant a suit against you idiots.

    • I’ll bite. What are the inaccuracies and false facts(?) that you are talking about?
      (ps. you replace the S with the $ not the T)

  6. Now let’s look at the tax relief given to the other purveyors of faerie stories. I’m stunned that people that show no real evidence of what they claim to be can sponge off of the public dime.
    Also let’s not forget one of the biggest criminal enterprises in the country is the catholic church who have managed to destroy many children’s lives as well. But once you have a certain number of creepy blind followers I guess you are above the law.

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      • They had better start to run as the CRA is making their own rules outside the Income Tax Act

        • The sooner the religious and political welfare queens get targeted the better. I hope they delve into the activities of the corporate spongers too.

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          • What a nasty person you are.
            All religions corrupt. This article didn’t have a single muslim in it yet child abuse, corruption and fraud were part and parcel of it. Just like child abuse, cover up and fraud are part of the catholic church’s history.
            It isn’t what kind of religion that’s the problem, it’s the fact that all religion allows people to justify such terrible behaviour that’s the problem.
            They are all the same deep down.

      • What a ridiculous over statement.
        If it weren’t for the catholic church the child abuse scandal wouldn’t exist either hey.
        It’s interesting how all the good stuff is because of the existence of the church but all the bad stuff is the fault of the people in the church. It’s like when a plane crashes and one person survives… “it’s a miracle praise be to god!” but nobody ever credits the old git with not stopping the plane crashing in the first place. the other 346 people clearly weren’t worth the effort.
        There are none so blind as those that will not see.

        • For all the harm the Catholic church did to the aboriginal and other groups in Canada the very least they could do was give back in some way. Catholic “help” comes at a cost to those receiving the help.

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      • Hah what a sadly deluded little person of faith you are.
        That statement is a blatant lie. Lots of people and institutions help immigrants, but most of them do it on a “based in reality” basis.
        I thought one of the commandments was don’t lie, or is it ok if you do it for your cult?

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          • The only criminality on display here is a scant regard for the English language and a distinct lack of ability to reason.
            You come across like Dorien or Francien in both respects.

  7. He is nothing but a lecherous, dirty old man, bordering on pedophilia.A truly sociopathic, narcissistic personality, hiding behind the “self righteous” veil of religion in order to flout whatever law he deems not applicable to him.

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      • Sounds more like a catholic priest

  8. Fathered as much as up to 120 children? Nothing more than a perverted old man who likes to get his dick wet….and then not have to account for them.

  9. I wish these articles would stop referencing the “the Fundamentalist Mormon Sect”. The Mormon Church or Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has nothing to do with this man or his group. Polygamy was outlawed by the church over 100 years ago and any member particpating in such activity forfeits his membership in the church. there really is no such thing as a “fundamentalist mormon” as there is nothing more fundamental then the basic doctrines of the church.

    • So… LDS does have or doesn’t have anything to do with this guy… I am confused. First you say no, but then you say that they share common roots.
      Fundamentalists take the religion “back to the roots” – the fundamentals. To them, LSD has strayed away from where it started – polygamy – and they are trying to get back to where the Mormon church was when it first started.
      “These articles” reference the group as a sect because it is a smaller group that shares many of the beliefs but a few that are on the fringes.
      I can see the connection. I can also understand the embarassment of being associated with them. Don’t worry, readers will understand that these beliefs are not those of most Mormons these days.

      • To really get into the “sect” down in Bountiful you need to read Daphne Bramham’s book:
        The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada’s Polygamous Mormon Sect

        It is not up to date (2009) but Daphne has done a lot of research on this interesting group of “non-Mormons.” Well worth the price of $15 or so.

        There will be no debate after that. As well, her columns in THE SUN are up to date on this latest revelation.

    • Mormons love to brag about the ‘fruits of their labors’ to the world. These polygamist sects are a ‘fruit’ of Mormonisms polygamy. Just because you changed your rules, doesn’t mean this decidedly bad fruit isn’t still yours, and stinks to high heaven. You need to own it, you planted it in the first place.

  10. The role…………is to shear the sheep not skin it. One of my favourite quotes ever.

  11. Every religion out there has splintered including the LDS, and they all have fundies.

  12. i guess the fact that he is a pedophile who sexually exploits young girls and is a proponent of child marriage to his closest pedophile friends is only a secondary matter in the criminal code of Canada. what a devilish fiend…he didn’t pay his taxes!!!

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