Hawaii comedian granted deferral in tax evasion case - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii comedian granted deferral in tax evasion case

Rodney Villanueva Rodney Villanueva
Michael Green Michael Green
Janine Udui Janine Udui

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A popular Hawaii entertainer, who pleaded no contest to 10 tax evasion charges, apologized to a judge Monday and asked for a chance to keep his record clean.

But prosecutors fought Rodney Villanueva's request for a deferral, saying he cheated the entire community by not paying $14,706 in state taxes.

When comedian and actor Rodney Villanueva takes center stage, it's usually not for such a tough crowd. The 55-year-old, who serves as an emcee at weddings and other events, says his failure to pay his share of state taxes was unintentional.

"I don't know anything about taxes, so I hire people to do that kind of stuff for me," the defendant said. "I'm just, was gifted to entertain people and that's what I wanted to do."

"He gets retainers a year or so in advance to be a master of ceremonies or a host at various events," Michael Green, defense attorney, explained. "From time to time, those events don't go forward and he doesn't declare the money until he actually performs."

But state prosecutors say Villanueva failed to file general excise tax and individual income tax returns from 2002 to 2006, and also made fraudulent statements on one return.

"For him to come in and blame everything on these accountants is disingenuous," Janine Udui, deputy attorney general, said.

She says Villanueva under-reported his income by 30%, and that delinquent taxpayers like him hurt everyone.

"When you call 911, you expect the police to show up," Udui said. "When you turn on the water, you expect clean water to, you know, to come out of your tap. All of these services are provided by taxpayer dollars."

"I never thought about him preventing you or I or anyone else from getting clean water," Green countered. "It just never really occurred to me. Maybe I should be grateful that I get clean water. I don't know what she's talking about."

The judge granted Villanueva's request for a deferral. That means his record will be wiped clean if he stays out of trouble for the next five years.

"I'm sorry and I can give you the guy's name not to use as an accountant," the defendant told the judge.

Villanueva was ordered to pay his back taxes, plus $5,500 in fines.

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