Daughter Of Convicted Bixby Founder Gets 3-Yr. Sentence

Daughter Of Convicted Bixby Founder Gets 3-Yr. Sentence

A federal judge handed down a harsher-than-usual prison sentence to Melanie Bonine, the daughter of Bixby Energy founder Robert Walker, for tax fraud.

A couple of months after Twin Cities businessman Robert Walker was convicted of a long list of criminal charges, his daughter has been sentenced to three years in prison for tax fraud.

Walker, perhaps best known as the inventor of the Sleep Number bed, was found guilty in March of 17 criminal counts, including fraud, conspiracy, tax evasion, and witness tampering. The crimes stemmed from his promotion of Bixby Energy Systems, Inc., a Ramsey-based alternative-energy company that he founded, which attracted $57 million from 1,800 investors but never made money. (Learn more about Walker's case here.)

While a date has not yet been set for Walker’s sentencing, a federal judge this week sentenced his daughter, Melanie Bonine, to three years in prison for filing a false individual income tax return for 2009.

Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney’s office said earlier this week that Bonine entered a plea agreement last year, in which she admitted to reporting her 2009 income as $167,944—when in fact she made more than $700,000 in additional income through the sale of warrants for Bixby Energy stock.

Bonine’s three-year sentence is harsher than the 18- to 24-month range that federal sentencing guidelines suggest for her type of crime. When handing down the sentence, a federal judge said that Bonine had been involved with Bixby for many years and had misappropriated funds when she knew the company was insolvent. The judge noted that “even Walker testified during the trial that Bonine had stolen Bixby funds” and rejected her argument that the tax crime was a “one-time slip up,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Evidence at Walker’s trial showed that he and his associates took in nearly $11 million over the decade that ended in 2011—$2.5 million of which went to Bonine, according to a Pioneer Press report. A Star Tribune story characterized Bonine as a former Bixby executive.

Follwing Bonine's sentencing, Kelly Jackson of the St. Paul office for IRS criminal investigation said that “tax fraud of this magnitude and with this degree of trickery, dishonesty, and deceit deserves to be punished.”