Missouri Paid More Than $250,000 in Cash to Executioners, With No Tax Documentation

Missouri has paid state executioners $284,551.84 in cash since November 2013, without providing notification of the payments to tax authorities, according to a BuzzFeed News investigation. The payments, mostly in envelopes filled with $100 bills, were intended to keep the identities of execution team members hidden from the public by limiting the paper trail. However, Missouri’s Department of Corrections failed to file 1099 forms with the IRS for the cash payments, potentially contributing to tax evasion and violating federal tax law that requires issuance of 1099s for contractor payments of $600 or more. George Lombardi, director of the Department of Corrections, confirmed that Missouri paid execution team members in cash without issuing 1099s, but defended the practice to the Missouri legislature, saying, “It is my understanding that giving 1099s to these individuals would reveal who they were, and would mean the end of the death penalty, because these individuals wouldn’t do it.” A February 2015 audit by the Missouri Auditor’s Office found that prison officials also failed to comply with state administrative procedures concerning documentation of the payments. The auditors reported that “[t]he DOC did not record the amount of the cash payments on receipt forms signed by execution team members and did not always require the exchange of the cash payments to be acknowledged by a witness signature, as required by DOC procedures.” Discrepancies in state documentation of the payments continued even after the audit, as some state forms - called “confidential execution team member receipts” - were left entirely blank, others lacked a witness signature, and many of the witnesses signed the receipts on different days than did the prison employee who is believed to have delivered the cash envelopes. BuzzFeed found evidence that Arizona and Oklahoma also make cash payments to executioners in the interest of concealing their identities, but Arizona has supplied the appropriate tax forms and Oklahoma’s payments may be below the threshold required for issuing 1099s.

(C. McDaniel, “Missouri Paid Executioners $250,000 In Cash, Possibly Violating Tax Law,” BuzzFeed News, January 28, 2016; C. McDaniel, “Missouri Corrections Head Defends Cash Payments Before State Legislature,” BuzzFeed News, February 1, 2016.) See Lethal Injection.