A Platte County jury on Tuesday found a Parkville woman guilty of tax evasion for falsely claiming her children as dependents after her former husband was murdered.
Letti Strait, 50, was convicted of attempting to evade state income tax and filing false tax returns. Strait has been described as a person of interest in the murder of her former husband, Charles Cammisano, in September 2007.
The jury’s verdict came in shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday. Strait served as her own attorney in the trial, which was heard in the courtroom of Judge Abe Shafer.
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “The investigation into the murder of Charles Cammisano is ongoing. But this defendant had her children taken away the night his body was found. She did not have custody of her children a single day following her former husband’s murder, yet she used those children to attempt to evade taxes by claiming the children were her dependents. It is difficult to imagine a more disturbing case of tax evasion.”
Prosecutors proved at trial that Strait claimed her four children as dependents on her 2008 state tax returns. However, the children had been placed in the custody of the Missouri Children’s Division on September 4, 2007 and have not lived with or had any overnight visitations with Strait since then.
Strait was found guilty of attempting to evade state income tax and filing a false state income tax return. She faces up to 10 years in prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16.
Strait has previously been convicted in federal court of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in a case prosecuted by the Organized Crime Strike Force of the United States Attorney’s Office.
Strait’s former husband, Charles Cammisano, was found dead, lying in a pool of blood in his Riverside home on Sept. 1, 2007. Cammisano had been shot several times.
Police named Strait and a man as “persons of interest” in Cammisano’s death. Strait was later taken into custody after a standoff with police but was released.
No charges have been filed related to Cammisano’s death, but Zahnd said the case remains under active investigation.
Riverside Police Chief Greg Mills asked anyone who knows anything about Cammisano’s murder to call the Riverside Police Department at (816) 741-1501 or the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS. A reward is available for anyone whose tip leads to an arrest. TIPS callers may remain anonymous.
Zahnd said, “This crime came to light during a meeting we had with the family of the murder victim. As the meeting was ending, the victim’s sister, who had custody of his daughters, mentioned the trouble she was having with claiming them as dependents on her taxes. We decided to use criminal tax laws to prosecute the defendant for tax evasion.”
Zahnd admitted that state prosecution for income tax evasion is rare.
“When we hear about people being prosecuted for tax evasion, it is usually in a federal trial or in a history book discussing how Al Capone was convicted of the crime,” Zahnd said.
The case was investigated by Special Agent Michael Fryer of the Missouri Department of Revenue, with the assistance of the Riverside Police Department and the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.
It was prosecuted by assistant prosecutor Joe Vanover.