John Anthony Castro, a Republican presidential hopeful known for his attempts to challenge former President Donald Trump’s eligibility for the ballot, was recently arrested on federal tax fraud charges. This development occurred just a day after a federal judge in Nevada dismissed one of his lawsuits aimed at barring Trump from running for office.
The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Leigha Simonton, announced on Wednesday that Castro, 40, from Mansfield, Texas, faces a 33-count indictment. The charges include aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of false and fraudulent tax returns. The indictment, which was filed under seal on January 3, alleges that Castro engaged in fraudulent activities through his tax preparation business, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper claims.
Castro was apprehended on Tuesday and later released after his initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hal R. Ray, Jr. In a statement, Simonton condemned Castro’s alleged actions as audacious theft from the federal government and the American public.
The indictment follows a Monday ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Gloria M. Navarro, who dismissed Castro’s lawsuit challenging Trump’s eligibility based on the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause. Navarro, an appointee of former President Obama, ruled that Castro lacked standing in the case, failing to demonstrate a concrete injury due to Trump’s conduct and thereby lacking jurisdiction to address such a politically charged question
Navarro also noted that Castro’s candidacy and filing fee payment appeared to be attempts to manufacture standing against Trump. Five other courts had previously rejected Castro’s arguments regarding political competitor standing.
Prosecutors claim that starting in 2016, Castro devised a scheme to create and submit false tax returns for unwitting taxpayers through his virtual tax preparation business, Castro & Company LLC, which operates in Orlando, Florida; Mansfield, Texas; and Washington, D.C. He allegedly promised taxpayers significantly higher refunds than other preparers and offered to split the additional refund with them, generating false deductions without the taxpayers’ knowledge.
An undercover operation in 2018 led to further evidence against Castro. He reportedly refused to meet in person unless a $5,000 retainer was paid but offered virtual assistance. In a recorded call, Castro allegedly projected the refund an undercover agent would receive from another firm and compared it to what he could obtain. He ultimately filed a tax return claiming $29,339 in fraudulent deductions for the agent.
Castro, who could face up to 99 years in federal prison if convicted on all counts, has claimed that the indictment is politically motivated, an attempt to disrupt his legal challenges against Trump’s eligibility. He also suggested that the issue with the IRS was settled in 2021, alleging that certain clients misinterpreted tax law.
Despite Castro’s legal challenges to Trump’s ballot eligibility being unsuccessful so far, other lawsuits are still in motion, and the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in February on Trump’s challenge to a Colorado ruling citing the 14th Amendment for removing him from the ballot. Maine’s Democratic Secretary of State has also barred Trump from the ballot, invoking the insurrection clause.