By Dave Rogers Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News
---- — AMESBURY — The attorney for a local man facing 22 counts of tax evasion said his client had every intention to pay the $445,000 he owed the state and made arrangements with officials to settle the amount over the course of several months,
Bruce Bourassa, president of Green Company Landscaping & Irrigation, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Monday at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on 22 counts of tax evasion.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office said Bourassa, 43, of Willowdale Court, and his business failed to pay more than $445,000 into the state’s unemployment trust fund over a period of six years, from 2006 to 2012.
Bourassa was indicted by a Suffolk County grand jury in late September on the charge of non-payment of employer contributions, according to Coakley’s office.
He was released on personal recognizance following his arraignment and is due back in court on Dec. 13 for a pretrial conference. Clerk Magistrate Gary Wilson presided over the arraignment.
Bourassa’s attorney, Rick Grundy, said his client was caught off guard by the state’s decision to prosecute him, thinking that a deal had been put in place.
“He reported to them, ‘I owe you this money, but I don’t have the money,’” Grundy said.
Allison Harris, spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development’s Department of Unemployment Assistance, said her agency, which reported the case to Coakley’s office, does not comment on active litigation.
According to authorities, Bourassa has been the president and treasurer of Green Company since 1997. Authorities allege that although the company had previously complied with its employer tax contributions, it stopped paying the necessary taxes beginning in October 2006 through January 2012. During this time, the company continued to operate and pay wages to its workers. As a result of the alleged fraud, Bourassa and Green Company failed to pay more than $445,000 in required contributions, including interest.
Despite the company’s lack of contribution to the unemployment fund, workers formerly employed by Green Company were able to collect more than $595,000 in benefits after their separation from the business.
The prosecution of insurance fraud helps prevent the increase in premiums and taxes that are the result of fraudulent insurance claims, officials say. In 2011, Coakley’s Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division obtained $5,578,934 in restitution orders in 33 matters.
The case against Bourassa is being handled by assistant attorneys general Jennifer Adreani and David Andrews, chief of Coakley’s Insurance and Unemployment Fraud Division, with assistance from investigators Tracey Wetterlow and Rose Bagalawis of the attorney general’s office and Richard Carney, director of revenue enforcement and audit.