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Singer Ronald Isley gets 3 years in prison

The R&B icon, in poor health after a stroke and kidney cancer, is sentenced on tax evasion charges.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ronald Isley has been sentenced to three years and one month in prison for tax evasion.

The 65-year-old R&B singer was also ordered to pay $3.1 million in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Conte.

Isley was convicted last year of five counts of tax evasion and one count of willful failure to file a tax return.

During Friday’s hearing, defense attorney Anthony Alexander argued that Isley should receive probation instead of prison time because of complications from a stroke and a recent bout with kidney cancer.

Alexander also pleaded for leniency because Isley had been attempting to pay down his IRS debt.

“He’s been liquidating assets, he’s been doing the things that he can,” Alexander said.

But U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson declined to sentence Isley to less time than called for under federal guidelines.

“The term serial tax avoider has been used. I think that’s appropriate,” Pregerson said.

During the trial, prosecutors said Isley, lead singer of The Isley Brothers, avoided paying taxes numerous times in the past three decades and declared bankruptcy after the IRS seized his yacht, cars and other property in 1997.

He was discharged from bankruptcy four years later, but then did not file tax returns for the years 1997 to 2001 and in 2002 did not sign his return and failed to pay all taxes due.

Alexander argued during the trial that “unfortunate circumstances” such as the deaths of two of Isley’s accountants made him unable to get records together and pay taxes during the years that led to the criminal charges.

Isley’s recent albums include a 2003 collaboration with Burt Bacharach titled, “Here I Am,” and The Isley Brothers album “Body Kiss.”

He was expected to be sent to a Bureau of Prisons hospital facility.