Hunter Biden’s tax indictment presents fresh political challenge as his father arrives in L.A.
As President Biden arrived in Los Angeles on Friday for a weekend of fundraising among Hollywood elite, his only living son was hit with his second grand jury indictment this year — with the special counsel accusing the younger Biden of various tax crimes.
Hunter Biden has long served as a political punching bag for his father’s opponents, and the latest indictment, in L.A., along with another in Delaware charging him with firearms violations, has the president’s son facing two trials on opposite coasts while his father makes the case for reelection to the country.
The younger Biden asserted in an interview for the podcast “MobyPod,” released Friday, that the onslaught by Republicans was part of a long-running effort to ultimately defeat his father.
“They are trying to — in their most illegitimate way, but rational way — they’re trying to destroy a presidency,” he told the musician Moby, though it’s unclear when the interview was recorded.
“And so it’s not about me,” Biden continued. “And [in] their most base way, what they’re trying to do is they’re trying to kill me, knowing that it will be a pain greater than my father could be able to handle.”
In the 56-page indictment unsealed late Thursday, Biden, who resides in Malibu, was accused of failing to pay his taxes on time from 2016 to 2019, filing false and fraudulent tax returns in 2018, and tax evasion.
The nine charges span a period when Biden, 53, was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine, which he documented in graphic detail in a memoir that dwells on the 2015 death of his brother, Beau, along with the grief and depression that consumed him and his family. The brothers lost their mother and sister in a 1972 car crash that left both boys seriously injured.
Biden has since become sober and paid his taxes, along with penalties and interest. His lawyers are expected to point to his well-publicized addiction to explain his chaotic financial affairs.
But prosecutors contend that he “willfully” failed to file and pay his taxes to the Internal Revenue Service on time, and that he instead plunked down cash for a bacchanalia across L.A. featuring “drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature.”
Further, prosecutors allege that when preparing tax returns in 2020, in the early months of his sobriety, Biden misclassified a long list of personal expenses from 2018 as business expenses to reduce his tax burden. Those expenses include tuition for his daughter and a Venmo payment to an exotic dancer, according to the indictment.
If convicted of all charges — six misdemeanors and three felonies — Biden would face a maximum penalty of 17 years in prison, although federal guidelines would call for a far shorter sentence.
The case was unsealed on the eve of President Biden’s first in-person fundraising visit to Southern California since Hollywood strikes put a pause on campaign events.
Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty in Delaware to three federal firearms charges that emerged after the implosion of a deal to resolve a long-running investigation.
The charges come months after Hunter Biden was set to enter a plea deal for tax and firearms violations. The deal would have avoided time behind bars and included immunity from additional federal charges, but it collapsed under questioning by a federal judge in Delaware. Shortly after that, Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland appointed David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, as special counsel in the investigation.
Weiss has since brought a fresh indictment in Delaware against Biden on the firearms violations, accusing him of lying about his drug use in 2018 when he purchased a gun that he briefly owned. Biden has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which are rarely filed as a standalone case.
The special counsel also brought the tax charges against Biden in California, asserting in a statement that the president’s son “spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle rather than paying his tax bills.”
Biden’s defense attorney, Abbe Lowell, emphasized that his client had long ago paid his tax debts and accused Weiss of bowing to pressure from Republicans by filing “unprecedented and unconstitutional gun charges.”
“Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought,” Lowell said, an apparent nod to the millions of people a year who fail to pay their taxes on time.
“Now, after five years of investigating with no new evidence — and two years after Hunter paid his taxes in full — the U.S. attorney has piled on nine new charges when he had agreed just months ago to resolve this matter with a pair of misdemeanors,” Biden’s lawyer continued.
Lowell noted that he had written to the special counsel’s office this week, seeking a “customary meeting” to discuss the tax inquiry.
“The response was media leaks today that these charges were being filed,” he said.
The indictment offers the most detailed window yet into the Justice Department’s long-running inquiry into Hunter Biden.
In his memoir and in several interviews, Biden has been open about the depths of his addiction and unsavory lifestyle in L.A., when he lived out of the Chateau Marmont, Hollywood Roosevelt and other luxury hotels in a haze of sex and crack-induced euphoria.
“I never slept. There was no clock. Day bled into night and night into day,” Biden wrote in “Beautiful Things,” in which he recounts his journey to sobriety.
The grand jury indictment outlines how his sordid travails were allegedly financed — with $7 million in income from 2016 to 2020 from various business dealings — and uses Biden’s own words to claim discrepancies in his tax returns.
The most serious charges stem from 2018, at the height of his addiction. Prosecutors allege the filing of that year’s tax returns for both Biden and his business Owasco PC was fraudulent and evasive.
The lawsuit was the latest in a new strategy by Hunter Biden to strike back against Republican allies of Donald Trump, who have traded and passed around his private data.
The returns were prepared in early 2020 by an accounting team in L.A. Prosecutors describe a three-hour meeting that Biden had with the accountants that year where he reviewed records to confirm their accuracy and used a yellow highlighter to indicate outlays that should not be deducted as business expenses.
According to the indictment, Biden failed to identify several personal expenses, including the Venmo payment to an exotic dancer; $2,312.50 to a test preparation service for one of his daughters; and a $30,000 law school tuition payment for a daughter.
The indictment makes no mention of Biden’s father, nor does it specify the amount that Biden allegedly underreported his taxes or how that would ultimately affect his tax bill.
Although prosecutors claim that in 2020, Biden “never told” his accountants about his extensive drug and alcohol use, “which might have prompted greater scrutiny of his claims of hundreds of thousands of dollars in business expenses,” he had already begun discussing his alcohol and drug addiction in public.
Times staff writer Stacy Perman contributed to this report.
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