An exclusive investigation by Nebraska Watchdog has found a plumbing company, two commercial painters and at least one ex-convict included in a four page list of registered boat dealers in the State of Nebraska.
The list examined by Nebraska Watchdog, names dozens of individuals and businesses which appear to have little or nothing to do with boat sales and could be costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost taxes.
According to the state there are 115 registered boat dealers in Nebraska. But Nebraska Watchdog’s exclusive investigation finds that more than half the dealers are fishy.
Late last year Nebraska Watchdog first reported that State Senator Kent Rogert of Tekamah has avoided paying the sales tax on his $40,000 speedboat. Rogert has taken advantage of a loophole in state law which allows anyone, without providing any proof, to get a boat dealer’s registration number. And because they are dealers, they don’t pay sales taxes on the boat.
Now Nebraska Watchdog has found that of those 115 registered boat dealers, many admit they don’t sell boats.
Nebraska Watchdog recently contacted 28 car and truck dealers which, according to the state, hold dealer registrations on 37 boats. When Nebraska Watchdog asked the dealerships if they sold boats all 28 said “no.”
Nebraska Watchdog also found nearly a dozen boats registered to individual home addresses and three dozen others to a variety of businesses. Nebraska Watchdog was unable to reach them for comment.
Among those listed by the State of Nebraska as a boat dealer is a Lincoln man, Joseph P. Knopp. Knopp tells Nebraska Watchdog, “We do sell boats occasionally but it’s been a while.” Knopp is the President of JPK Investment Motors and is on parole following two convictions, one for fraud, in U.S. District Court in Lincoln.
In 2006 Knopp pleaded guilty to charges of bank fraud and faulty record keeping involving high powered weapons. According to court records Knopp, a licensed firearms dealer, failed to comply with federal rules and document his acquisition of 21 machine guns. The same court records also note that Knopp, while applying for a loan, intentionally misled officials of the Centennial Bank in Ashland, Nebraska.
Knopp was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, placed on supervised release for five years and ordered to pay $251,000 in restitution on the fraud charge. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison and a year of supervised release on the gun charge. Both sentences were to be served concurrently. Knopp was released from prison on December 27, 2007.
Later this year the Nebraska Legislature’s Transportation Committee is scheduled to look into the boat dealer business. It’s expected that among other things the committee will examine the loopholes in the law uncovered by Nebraska Watchdog including the fact that unlike car dealers, boat dealers are not licensed by the state.
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Editor’s note: to see Nebraska Watchdog’s initial investigation click here.
Reported by Joe Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org