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Isley Brother faces jail after tax conviction

Prosecutors say singer bought yacht, Bentleys
/ Source: Reuters

Ronald Isley, lead singer of the legendary R&B band the Isley Brothers, has been convicted of tax evasion and could face five to 26 years in prison.

Isley, 64, was found guilty late Monday on five counts of tax evasion and one count of failing to file a tax return. No figure was given for the sum involved but prosecutors said Isley lived lavishly, buying a yacht, homes in California and Missouri and two Bentley cars while failing to pay more than $300,000 in taxes in 2002.

Isley has not commented on the verdict. He will be sentenced in January and faces a maximum of 26 years in prison, though under sentencing guidelines he is probably looking at between five and 10 years, court sources said.

Prosecutors said the the frontman of the family singing group whose hits included “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” and “That Lady (Part 1 and 2)”, demanded that more than $12 million in performance fees between 1997 and 2002 be paid in cash in a deliberate attempt to avoid taxes.

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Isley’s lawyers told jurors during the three-week trial that two of the singer’s accountants had died during that period, making it difficult for him to get his records together and pay his taxes. He denied willful evasion.

Isley was also accused of using for his own benefit royalty checks issued to other Isley Brothers-related enterprises and people, including his brother O’Kelly, who died in 1986.

The main prosecution witness was Isley’s former tour manager Ruby Martin who worked with the singer for eight years and who testified under immunity.

The Isley Brothers had their biggest success in the 1960s and 1970s. Members came and went but in 1990 Ronald and younger brothers Ernie and Marvin reunited, producing several new albums, and were still performing in the spring of 2005.