Sect members plead innocent

Three members of an Atlantic County religious organization pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to defraud the federal government of more than $100,000 in tax payments.

U.S. District Judge Jerome Simandle set a June 25 status hearing in the case.

Members of The Restored Israel of Yahweh, a Mays Landing organization, the three have said they are religiously opposed to taxes that support war.

Joseph Donato, 46, of Mays Landing, and Kevin McKee, 47, of Egg Harbor Township, owners of the McKee Donato Construction Co. in Mays Landing, are charged with failing to pay federal employment taxes and failing to file individual tax returns.

Arrested on April 12, Donato and McKee were detained until April 15 in the Camden County Jail because they had told U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel B. Rosen they would not comply with bail conditions that would have mandated their return to court for scheduled events.

After three nights in the jail, however, they agreed to meet those conditions and friends and family members posted $150,000 bonds for Donato and McKee, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas DiLeonardocq.

Donato's wife, Ingecq, 44, had been free on bail since her initial appearance in court last week. She works as the bookkeeper for the construction company.