Businessman, tax office tangle over delinquent taxes

HOUSTON The tense confrontation between a business owner and the county over unpaid taxes was caught on camera. The county says it is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the minute the tax collector came to collect, the business owner filed for bankruptcy. And now, it's shaping up to be a very unusual case.

On Tuesday night, Jim Rutherford had uninvited guests.

"If you would've called, I would've paid it, you know that?" Rutherford could be seen saying on the taped confrontation.

The constables and tax collectors showed up at his Houston-based health care company, Quality Infusion Care, Inc., to seize a Bentley and other luxury cars registered to his business to help pay for more than $170,000 in back taxes.

Records show some of the company's autos include:

  • 2008 Bentley convertible ($206,265 original registered sales price)
  • 2008 Mercedes S500 ($107,790)
  • 2007 BMW 750L ($90,580)
  • 2008 Jaguar XKN convertible ($86,200)
  • 2008 BMW 550 ($67,169)
  • 2008 BMW 550 ($67,045 – not a duplicate; different VINs)
  • 2006 Cadillac limousine ($65,661)
  • 2005 Cadillac limousine ($63,661)
  • "I had no idea that they were just going to come to my office and start seizing assets on their tax warrant when we should've been in litigation on the difference of the taxes," Rutherford said.

    Rutherford said he recently settled a tax dispute with Alief, and as a result, he expected Harris County to offer some sort of settlement.

    "There was a dispute that we had because the tax years that we were talking about," he said.

    But the county said it had 20 communications with Quality Infusion or its attorneys between January and the end of June.

    "They've had plenty of notice and I guess they really didn't take them seriously until we showed up on Tuesday," Harris County Tax Assessor Leo Vasquez said.

    In fact, the county showed Eyewitness News video of an employee blocking the $200,000 Bentley so it couldn't be towed from outside the company, which is located in the 6300 block of Richmond Avenue.

    "Constables showed great restraint in not arresting Mr. Rutherford's employee who impeded the law enforcement officers' execution of their duties," Vasquez said. "While other taxpayers are doing their best to meet their obligations, Mr. Rutherford has scoffed at the law, is manipulating the system to avoid paying his company's taxes, and is riding off to his Fort Bend County home in the lap of excessive luxury."

    Still, the county left with nothing that day.

    "Coming here, do all their show, all their threatening and don't have nothing," Rutherford said.

    They got nothing, because before the county brought in the trucks, Quality Infusion sent its lawyers to court.

    "They went down to the courthouse and filed for the bankruptcy protection, which again is his legal right to do so," Vasquez said.

    It is the third time since 2001 for the company to file for bankruptcy.

    Rutherford admits to Eyewitness News that he reacted strongly to the raid at his business.

    "Our goal is not to put citizens out of business. We had no intention of taking any medical equipment or the other vehicles necessary for Quality Infusion Care to continue in operation," explained Vasquez. "However, this is the most egregious and obvious disregard for a taxpayer's obligation to pay his taxes I have seen during my tenure with the Harris County Tax Office. It is Mr. Rutherford's legal right to yet again use the court system, and he may be able to put off paying his taxes for a while longer, but we will continue to aggressively pursue this collection effort. It's the law and it's only fair for the rest of the Harris County taxpayers who are meeting their obligations."

    To its credit, Quality Infusion Care said as of 5pm Thursday, it will pay that more than $170,000. It sent a letter to the county tax assessor on Wednesday, saying it would do it. The tax assessor, as of late Thursday afternoon, had not yet received payment.


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