HALEYVILLE - A tax abatement the Haleyville City Council approved in early August for Sparks Properties LLC has now been rescinded, after it was learned that the property’s owner has been convicted of fraud.
The fraud, committed by Randy Sparks, of Belmont, Miss. and his business partner, Dexter Jorgensen, was discovered in 2018 on a national level after thousands of gallons of juice slated for destruction by a processing plant were resold instead, reports indicated.
Both Sparks and Jorgensen faced federal prosecutors in Seattle, Wash. and received probationary sentences and financial judgments totaling six figures for each, according to reports.
Sparks and Jorgensen avoided jail time, with both pleading guilty to an interstate fraud charge, being sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution, according to reports. Sparks was ordered to pay $103,709 in restitution, as well as a $10,000 fine, with Jorgensen required to pay $216,461, reports indicated.
The council’s decision to rescind the tax rebatement was based on items that came to light causing city officials to question the validity, as well as the truthfulness of the person who had made the representation to the city, officials said.
Although Sparks is welcome to develop the former Fred’s building, which he owns, and will be treated as any other business entity in the city, he will have to do it without the assistance of a tax rebate for that particular project, officials added.
At their Aug. 2 meeting, the council had approved the tax incentive, based on the request of Sparks Properties LLC. The city had received an application for economic assistance from Sparks Properties LLC, which owns the now vacant metal building on 21st Street across from City Hall.
At that time, Sparks Properties represented to the City of Haleyville two things in requesting the tax abatement, 1) Sparks Properties LLC would commit to investing a minimum of $60,000 in the construction, equipment and renovation of a building in the downtown district, according to Resolution 2021-15;
2) The tax rebate was necessary for the development and would assist in the creation of jobs, as reasoning why Sparks Properties LLC had approached the city about the rebate.
At that time, however, questions arose as to whether the tax abatement was necessary for the development of the vacant building. The idea the city had was that the tax rebate was necessary in order for developments to be made, as well as the owner had promised certain things in return for receiving the rebate, officials explained.
The rebate would have been 10 percent of the three cent sales tax collected, or up to $30,000, for a three-year period.
However, Resolution 2021-21, approved by the council at their Tuesday, Sept. 7, meeting, noted that after the tax abatement was approved, “certain matters came to light about the owner of the application, which called into question the representation made at the hearing.”
This resulted in the council’s unanimous vote to rescind the tax abatement, with all voting in favor, including Brian Berry, Jonathan Bennett, Drew Thrasher, Blue Russell, Boo Brooks and Mayor Ken Sunseri.
Sunseri, in reading from the resolution approving the rescission of the tax abatement, said, “Whereas the city council has an obligation to reserve the incentive to individuals and companies who actually meet the assistance to complete the project and demonstrate their trustworthiness.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.