Ex-Christiana Cos. Officer, Wife Sentenced in Tax Case

San Diego County Business Editor

A former real estate executive whom authorities claimed founded a church to avoid paying federal income taxes was sentenced Wednesday to 90 days in jail for failing to file income tax returns in 1977 and 1979.

Harold Holmes, a former executive with San Diego-based Christiana Cos., pleaded guilty in May to two misdemeanor tax counts. His wife, Marjorie, pleaded guilty to not filing a return in 1978. She was sentenced Wednesday to five years' probation and a $5,000 fine.

Holmes, who was also fined $10,000, will begin his sentence in two weeks.

U.S. Magistrate Irma E. Gonzales also ordered the couple to make restitution for back taxes that they owe, the amount of which will be determined later.

The Holmeses claimed that they were influenced by William Drexler, the one-time self-appointed "archbishop" of two churches who was convicted in San Diego in 1981 on multiple counts of mail fraud, assisting in income tax evasion and preparing false income tax returns and conspiracy.

Drexler jumped bail after his conviction and was later found in Costa Rica.

He was sentenced to five years in prison but was released before completing the term.

"There are hundreds of us who'd like to avoid paying taxes, (but) it's a cross we all have to bear," Gonzales said. "I have serious doubts about you using the church as a vehicle for good works."

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