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Monday, January 9, 2012
Examples of Abusive Tax Schemes - Fiscal Year 2012
The following examples of abusive tax scheme investigations are written from public record documents on file in the court records in the judicial district in which the cases were prosecuted.
Three Men Sentenced in Investment/Tax Fraud Scheme
On December 21, 2011, in Newark, N.J., a principal of Mid-Atlantic Trustees and Administrators (MATA) and two of the company’s employees were sentenced to prison terms or home detention for conspiracy to defraud the United States through the marketing of two fraudulent products designed to conceal assets from the IRS and fraudulently discharge debt. Michael Balice, of Metuchen, N.J., was sentenced to 48 months in prison; Angel Done, of Queens, N.Y., was sentenced to 12 months of home detention; and Wilson Calle, of Queens, was sentenced to three months of home detention. Balice and Done were convicted by a jury on June 20, 2011, of one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud and wire fraud. Balice was also convicted of one count of tax evasion. Calle had pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud during the trial. According to court documents and evidence at trial: Balice was a principal of MATA, a company formed in 2005, which marketed two products to its customers: Pure Trust Organizations (PTOs) and Beneficiaries in Common (BIC). From the formation of MATA through July 2010, the defendants established several hundred PTOs for their customers, the express design of which was to conceal income and other assets from the IRS, thereby impeding the IRS in its tax collection efforts. In creating, marketing, and selling PTOs, the defendants made concerted efforts to make it appear that PTO customers had no control over the assets in the account and the trustees had complete control. The customers, however, always maintained unfettered access to their assets. In May 2007, MATA began to market and sell a second product, BIC, as a debt elimination program. For thousands of dollars per customer, MATA, its principals, and its employees manufactured false and fictitious bonds, often with face amounts of tens of millions of dollars, which were sent directly to the United States Treasury Department. According to MATA, once a customer’s bonds were sent to the Treasury Department and accepted, the customer was “bonded,” and, with MATA’s help, could draw down that bond to pay “public” debt, including mortgage debt, credit card debt, and tax obligations. As part of the BIC process, customers paid MATA to send hundreds of bonds to the U.S. Treasury, the IRS, and other government agencies in an attempt to discharge their tax and other debts. In total, MATA flooded the U.S. Treasury, IRS, and other government agencies with hundreds of billions of dollars in worthless paper. Through the marketing and sale of PTOs and BIC, the defendants collectively made over $3.5 million in illicit gross receipts, most of which was hidden in PTOs controlled by the defendants. None of the defendants paid income taxes on the proceeds, and, in many cases, filed no federal income tax returns at all.
Two People Sentenced in Multi-million Dollar Conspiracy to Defraud the Government
On December 15, 2011, Newark, N.J., Ronald Ottaviano, of Lewes, Del., was sentenced to 62 months in prison. Harriet Foster, of Tuckerton, N.J., was sentenced to 13 months in prison. Ottaviano, Foster and two other defendants were convicted by a jury on June 20, 2011, on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States, mail fraud and wire fraud. Ottaviano was also convicted of two counts of tax evasion and one count of money laundering, and Foster was convicted of two counts of failing to file a tax return and one count of money laundering. The jury also returned a special verdict forfeiting a home in Lewes, which the jury found Ottaviano and Foster had purchased using the proceeds of the fraud. Ottaviano, a principal of Mid-Atlantic Trustees and Administrators (MATA), and one of the firm’s employees perpetrated a conspiracy to defraud the United States by marketing two fraudulent products designed to conceal assets from the IRS and fraudulently discharge debt. At no time did MATA conduct legitimate business. Instead, MATA marketed two products to its customers: Pure Trust Organizations (PTOs) and Beneficiaries in Common (BIC). Through the marketing and sale of PTOs and BIC, the defendants collectively made over $3.5 million in illicit gross receipts, most of which was hidden in PTOs controlled by the defendants. None of the defendants paid income taxes on the proceeds, and, in many cases, filed no federal income tax returns at all. Ottaviano and Foster spent a portion of their illicit proceeds, more than $500,000, to purchase the Lewes home – in cash.
Washington Abusive Trust Promoter Sentenced for Conspiracy and Tax Charges
On November 15, 2011, in Tacoma, Wash., Sharon D. Kukhahn, aka Sharon Stephenson, was sentenced to 84 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $856,681 in restitution. Kukhahn was convicted by a trial jury in May 2011 on charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and corrupt interference with Internal Revenue Laws. At Kukhahn’s trial, prosecutors detailed the steps she took from 1999 to 2005 as part of a conspiracy to promote an abusive trust scheme designed to hide individual taxpayers’ income and assets from the IRS. Kukhahn and other conspirators referred clients to David Carroll Stephenson, who sold trust packages to more than 400 individuals. Purchasers used the trust packages to conceal income and assets from the IRS, and, as a result, failed to pay in excess of $7 million in income taxes. The jury found that through her own use of the trust packages, Kukhahn evaded paying income taxes in 2003 through 2006. The jury found that Kukhahn engaged in a business that attempted to thwart the efforts of the IRS to collect taxes owed by advising clients that they did not owe taxes. For a fee, Kukhahn helped clients obtain internal records from the IRS, claimed to “decode” them, and then mailed so-called “rebuttal packages” that supposedly would remove clients from the tax system. In reality, the packages were designed to stop audits and collection by harassing IRS employees, as well as to provide clients with a defense to tax evasion charges by creating evidence which the client could later use to dispute his or her criminal intent. Kukhahn also provided a frivolous letter-writing service for clients that was further designed to thwart IRS efforts to collect taxes owed. Kukhahn sold this scheme to more than 1,400 clients, helping them cheat the U.S. out of more than $4 million in income taxes. David Stephenson was sentenced in May 2006 to 96 months in prison and ordered to pay $8.5 million in restitution.
Diamond Merchant Sentenced for Conspiring to Hide $7.1 Million in Swiss Bank Accounts
On November 9, 2011, in Manhattan, N.Y., Richard Werdiger, a former client of Swiss bank UBS AG, was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison, one year of supervised release, fined $50,000 and ordered to pay a $600 special assessment. Werdiger pleaded guilty in March 2011 to conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by hiding more than $7.1 million at UBS, filing false federal income tax returns, and evading nearly $400,000 of taxes. Werdiger agreed to pay a civil penalty of more than $3.8 million for his failure to report his overseas accounts. Restitution will be determined at a later date. According to court documents and statements made in court, from 1986 to 1988, Werdiger opened multiple accounts at UBS under the name of sham Liechtenstein-based foundations in order to evade taxes on money that he had inherited from his father. To further conceal his ownership of these accounts, Werdiger instructed UBS to permit him to communicate with the bank using the code name “Trygon.” In late 2000, Werdiger opened up yet another account at UBS in the name of a sham Panamanian corporation. This allowed him to continue to invest in U.S. securities without having UBS notify the IRS of his identity or withhold taxes on income arising out of his holding U.S. securities. During the conspiracy, Werdiger used the funds hidden offshore to satisfy various business obligations, such as paying off business debts incurred by his companies, Michael Werdiger Inc. and Eloquence Corporation, which sell diamonds and other jewelry.
Niagara Falls Financial Advisor Sentenced for Promoting and Using Abusive Tax Shelters
On October 4, 2011, in Buffalo, N.Y., Richard Muto was sentenced to 36 months in prison and one year of supervised release for corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the due administration of the Internal Revenue laws. According to court documents, between February 1996 and March 2000, Muto was a financial advisor, owning and operating his own business called Tax and Investment Strategies in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Muto admitted that he sold and promoted multi-layered abusive trust schemes. The scheme required the user to purchase and create a series of domestic and foreign trusts and internal business corporations (IBCs). The user would subsequently divert personal income into, and place assets into, the purported independent trusts and IBCs to create the impression that the user was relinquishing control of the income and assets through a series of sham paper transactions. The trusts and IBCs, however, remained under the complete control of the user. Therefore, the income and assets diverted into the trusts remained the income and assets of the user. Muto admitted that he knew that the use of the multi-layered trust schemes would cause his clients to file false federal income tax returns with the IRS. Muto also admitted that he misrepresented to clients and potential clients that, by using the multi-layered abusive trust scheme the clients could legitimately reduce or eliminate their federal income taxes. Muto also counseled clients to submit frivolous correspondence to the IRS in response to audit notices as a way to intimidate IRS revenue agents and thwart IRS audits. In addition to promoting the trusts, Muto used the abusive trusts himself, which resulted in his filing of false individual income tax returns for the tax years 1996, 1997 and 1998. Muto’s scheme caused a tax loss to the United States of more than $1.7 million.