The founders of Neways, who were found guilty last year of six counts of income tax evasion and a conspiracy to defraud the IRS charge, were each sentenced Wednesday to serve more than two years in federal prison.

Thomas E. Mower and his former wife, Leslie D. Mower, the founders of Springville-based multi-level marketing company Neways, were convicted of not paying personal income tax on about $3.2 million, which prosecutors say came from their companies Neways U.S., Neways Australia and Neways Malaysia. They were indicted in 2003.

Thomas Mower will spend 33 months in federal prison and serve 36 months of supervised release and pay a fine of more than $75,000. Leslie Mower was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison, a $60,000 fine and 36 months of supervised release.

The former corporate attorney for Neways, James Thompson, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS. Thompson was sentenced to spend a year and a day in federal prison.

The tax evasion, which lasted from 1989 to 2002, according to court documents, mounted to a total individual tax loss of $1,262,081.

The Mowers also allegedly set up bank accounts, using their son's Social Security number, to hide dozens of commission checks.

"I am sorry that I didn't do my taxes quite right," Leslie Mower said Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball. "I did what I thought was right."

Thomas Mower's attorney, Max Wheeler, said his client doesn't deny the foreign revenue should have been taxed, but he didn't believe it was his personal income, and therefore it should have been taxed through the company.

Talk about charity, community, family and a home-grown business filled the courtroom during the sentencing hearing.

"Many tens of thousands of dollars were given to an orphanage in Costa Rica," by Thomas Mower, Wheeler said, not to mention the money donated to sponsor an Olympic athlete and various other charities. "This is a very charitable man. He is a very significant asset to the community."

Rather than serving time in prison, Wheeler recommended his client serve his sentence in the form of probation or house arrest.

"This is not a run of the mill tax case," Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Caryn Mark said.

The case is about personal income tax evasion, she said, and the Mowers' claim that every dollar they made they put back into building the Neways corporation, and yet at the same time they made thousands of dollars worth of charitable donations.

"I am sorry for the things that have gone on and the difficulties," that have followed, Thomas Mower said, adding he was "fully ready to comply" with whatever sentence Kimball felt was appropriate.

Annile Smith, Leslie Mower's attorney, requested her client's prison time be suspended because she has very delicate, extenuating circumstances with her son.

"He has struggled and quite frankly found the world terrifying," Smith said, adding her client is "the center of his universe -- she's the sun in his world."

In cases similar to this, family circumstances are reasons to strike prison time, Smith said.

But in those cases, the defendant is the only one who can take care of the family member, Mark said, in this case Leslie Mower's son. Based on the information the government has, the Mowers' son has a driver's license, a hunting license and five siblings, Mark said, adding in terms of this law, "she is not an irreplaceable person."

Cases like this need to end the misconception that "if you're caught and you have resources, making a payment can get you out of trouble," Mark said.

Kimball ultimately sided with the prosecution, sending the couple to prison.

The outcome to this case "could have been hugely" different, Kimball said, adding Thomas Mower's sentence and fine could have been worse.

This is a tragic outcome to the case, 18-year-veteran Neways distributor Margie Aliprandi said.

"They've blessed hundreds of thousands of lives," she said. "For me they're family."

Katie Ashton can be reached at 344-2548 or kashton@heraldextra.com.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page C1.

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