U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on Wednesday accused his Democratic rival U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, of concealing information about a 2010 tax fraud conviction related to his mother’s company.
In an interview with the Dallas Morning News published Tuesday, O’Rourke had said he worried about the “local furniture store or office supply store or clothing store” that are at a competitive disadvantage because many of their online counterparts avoid paying sales taxes.
On Wednesday, the Cruz campaign pounced, noting in a press release that O’Rourke has a “family history of breaking tax laws while running a furniture store in El Paso.”
Charlotte’s Furniture, a company that was controlled by O’Rourke’s mother, Melissa O’Rourke, was convicted of tax fraud. The company pleaded guilty as a corporate entity in 2010 to structuring transactions to evade reporting requirements and was fined $250,000, according to the El Paso Times. The Cruz campaign says the deposits were “designed to avoid IRS scrutiny.”
The shop had accepted more than $630,000 in cash payments from an unidentified customer and altered records so daily transactions were not reported to the IRS, according to a plea agreement between the company and the government, the El Paso Times reported.
Melissa O’Rourke and other employees at the store were not charged as individuals. A court fined the company $250,000.
O’Rourke “has been campaigning on ethics in government, but he’s been hiding his mother’s conviction for tax fraud, his personal stake in her furniture company and his profiting from the company,” said Cruz campaign spokeswoman Emily Miller.
In an interview with the El Paso Times, O’Rourke said he has not concealed anything related to the case, which received extensive media coverage when it was settled in 2010.
“That store made a mistake and the issue was resolved,” he told the El Paso newspaper.
O’Rourke said he did not want to engage with personal attacks raised by Cruz.
“The bottom line is that I’m very, very proud of my mom,” he told the paper. “I love her more than I can say and I’m very grateful for everything that she does, including for her entire life running that store, which her mom started in 1951.”
O’Rourke denied that he has concealed anything about the furniture store, telling the El Paso Times that he has always been willing to answer questions about it when they arise.