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Is the Oklahoman covering a Gaylord family connection to tax credit abuse?

September 25, 2008

Update: While Robert Bennett the owner Public Supply Company has not been reported as using any of the Rural Small Business tax credits, reports do show that for 2007 and 2008 Bennett used a total of $1,175,651 in "Oklahoma Investment/New Jobs Credit" which only allows 1% of the total investment in tax credits, or 2% if the investment is more than $40 million. This would entail Bennett investing $58,782,550 in some other company where he would only receive 2% in tax credits, while some other investors invested $5.9 million in his company and received 30% in tax credits. This simply doesn't pass the common sense test.

Noticeably ignoring Oklahoma's tax credit abuses are the states two major newspapers, owned by two of the states wealthiest families. The Lortons who own the Tulsa World and Gaylords owner's of OPUBCO the parent of the Oklahoman or Daily Oklahoman.

We have uncovered a connection between the Oklahoman and three of the over 100 companies recently discovered to have taken potentially as much as $470 million in tax credit, using this fraudulent program, in 2007 alone.

Clay Bennett's family owns Public Supply Company (not to be confused with PSO the utility), one of the largest and oldest construction industry firms in Oklahoma. Clay Bennett's wife, Louise, is a Gaylord, serving as a board member/officer of OPUBCO the parent of The Oklahoman.

IIP Development LLC with undisclosed ownership, invested $5,045,000 in MetaMarkets OK, LLC. MetaMarkets in turn invested the exact same amount, $5,045,000, in Public Supply Company. In the process MetaMarkets used the $5 million investment to automatically claim tax credits under Oklahoma's rural tax credit incentive program that allows taking $2 in tax credits for every $1 claimed to be invested. MetaMarkets OK, LLC, serves no value other than a middle man (referred to on state records as a pass-through entity or CAPCO) to claim tax credits, which it passes back it undisclosed investors. MetaMarkets OK, claimed investing another $250,000 in Public Supply Company in 2006. This $250,000 was part of $10 million MetaMarkets OK, claimed to have received from BancFirst. There is no record through 2008 what happened to the other $9,750,000. For reason explained elsewhere this is inconsistent with the program requirements, prudent investing.

Records reveal no Public Supply Company facilities outside the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitian areas, making them ineligible for rural tax credit incentives.

We have also learned that Robert Bennett, Clay's brother, and the president of Public Supply Company used $585,995 of these tax credits to reduce his 2007 personal taxes. We could find no way for Robert to qualify other than as an investor in IIP Development/MetaMarkets OK scheme.

For clarification: The $5,045,000 comes from state records showing the investments used to claim tax credits. The state records do not reveal the actual tax credits taken or claimed for the investment. Using a loophole this can be up to twice the amount of the investment or 7 to 10 times the 30% allowed by law. The tax credits are intended to be used over a 3 year period, but can receive extensions. $585,995 only refers to the part of those tax credits used during 2007 by Robert Bennett. There can be other partners including as a corporate tax credit for companies. Most of tax credits are used to avoid corporate income taxes. Corporate income tax returns are allowed up to a 180 day extension, and have not been complied for 2007.

Comment: This demonstrates one of many different ways of misusing the tax credit program that we haven't often discussed. A company or its owners can move money around through different LLC's to funnel through the money laundering* pass-through entity back to the company. Solely for the purpose of gaining tax credits. Tax credits are then used to avoid paying personal and corporate income taxes.

*Note: Similar to the layering step in money laundering that involves transferring funds through a series of accounts or LLCs in an attempt to hide the funds' true origins.

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