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Dortch, Wife Said To Claim Property Tax Exemption On Two Homes With PM-PTL, Bjt

April 30, 1987

BARTOW, Fla. (AP) _ The wife of ousted PTL president Richard Dortch obtained property tax exemptions last year on two Florida homes in what was apparently a violation of state law, officials say.

Florida gives a tax break to residents on a single primary residence, but Dortch and his wife, Mildred, received the homestead exemption for two homes in different counties during 1986, officials in Polk and Pasco counties said.

Polk County Property Appraiser James L. Roden said Wednesday he planned to turn his files over to the state attorney’s office for investigation. Homestead fraud is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a jail term of up to one year and a fine of up to $2,500.

″He’s going to have to say yea or nay,″ Roden said, referring to Dortch. ″You can’t be a legal resident of two places at the same time.″

Dortch said today the exemptions appeared to be an oversight made by his wife, who he said takes care of all the family property matters. He said there had been a flurry of activity surrounding the purchase of the second house, in Pasco County, and she apparently signed the Polk County exemption by error.

Dortch, who reportedly received $350,000 in salary and bonuses last year, resigned under pressure at Tuesday’s meeting of PTL’s new board of directors in Fort Mill, S.C.

In 1983, the Dortches paid $170,000 for a home overlooking the a golf course east of Winter Haven, in Polk County, records show. Mrs. Dortch applied for a homestead exemption on the property in January 1984, and renewed it in 1985 and 1986, county records show. Later in 1986, the house was sold.

Meanwhile, in 1985 the couple bought a $255,000 waterfront home in New Port Richey in Pasco County on the Gulf Coast.

About the same time as the exemption on the Polk County residence was renewed for 1986, Mrs. Dortch obtained a 1986 homestead exemption for the Pasco property, Pasco County Property Appraiser Ted Williams said.

That means the Dortches received tax breaks on both homes in 1986 by claiming both as full-time residences, Roden said. The exemption allows Florida residents to deduct $25,000 from the assessed value of their permanent homes, and pay taxes only on the remainder.

The exemptions saved the couple about $400 in taxes in Pasco County and about $360 in Polk County, the property appraisers said.

Roden said that Williams is sending him copies of the Dortches’ Pasco County property records, and he also plans to turn that file over to State Attorney Jerry Hill.

Williams said he investigated the Dortches last month on the suspicion that they might not actually be living in their New Port Richey home. The couple was living there at that time, he said, adding that he’s satisfied that the Dortches deserved the exemption in Pasco County.

Residency is usually determined by where a person is registered to vote and by the address that appears on his income tax return, Williams said.

Mrs. Dortch is reportedly registered to vote in Florida but Dortch is not.