Lake Wylie man pleads guilty in $9M tax evasion case

A Lake Wylie man pleaded guilty to tax evasion in federal court after embezzling nearly $26 million from a North Carolina-based company.

Bryan Bower, 50, was an executive at Buckeye Fire Equipment Co., based in Kings Mountain, N.C., according to a release from U.S. Attorney Beth Drake.

During the guilty plea hearing, Bower was accused of convincing foreign customers to put their payments directly into his personal bank accounts instead of the company account, the statement says.

“Between 2009 and 2013, Bower diverted nearly $26 million from the company into his accounts,” the statement says.

Investigators say Bower used the money “to finance a lavish lifestyle,” including travel, Drake said.

Bower didn’t claim the income tax on the money and owed more than $9 million to the U.S. Treasury, the statement says.

The Internal Revenue Service investigated the case.

“At this time of year, when hard-working citizens are sitting down to prepare their tax returns, it is especially disappointing to see the overt steps Bryan Bower took to hide his taxable income from the government,” said Matthew D. Line, acting special agent in charge at the IRS Criminal Investigation. “The IRS is committed to protecting the integrity of the tax system by seeking out and prosecuting those who take steps to hide their income and avoid paying their fair share.”

Bower has not yet been sentenced but could face up to 5 years of imprisonment and a fine of $100,000.

Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068