On April 18, 2018, Ana Bajo, a California resident, pleaded guilty in the Northern District of California to conspiring to file fraudulent claims for more than $9.7 million in refunds by obtaining the personal information of others and filing more than 2,300 fraudulent income tax returns with her co-conspirators. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) paid over more than $7.5 million as a result of the scheme. Bajo now faces a maximum of ten years in prison, plus supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties. Her sentencing is scheduled for September 26, 2018.
The Department of Justice has permanently barred a Southern California tax preparer from preparing federal returns for others, following a complaint filed by the government that the tax professional had been filing returns claiming a total of more than $9 million in fraudulent refunds since at least 2009. She agreed to the injunction and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims, tax evasion, and aggravated identity theft.
The Department of Justice recently reminded taxpayers that evading personal or business-related tax obligations can lead to "substantial fines and penalties, and even long prison sentences." Last month, the husband-and-wife owners of a Tennessee staffing company were sentenced to 75 months and one year, respectively, of prison time for failure to pay over $2.8 million in employment-related taxes and withholdings, and for filing false employment tax returns.
No one is beyond the certainty of taxes, as a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, California, discovered last week. Hien Minh Nguyen was sentenced to 36 months in prison for taking cash and checks donated to the Diocese by parishioners and depositing them into his personal bank account to pay for personal expenses. The court found that the priest embezzled a total of $1.4 million from the Catholic Church and, by concealing the embezzlement from his return preparer, evaded over $500,000 in income taxes owed to the IRS.
Susanne D. Rüegg Meier, a citizen and resident of Switzerland, pleaded guilty on July 19, 2017, to conspiring with U.S. taxpayers and other Swiss bankers to defraud the United States as the head of a team of bankers for Credit Suisse AG between 2002 and 2011. She was responsible for the accounts of over 1,000 clients and handled approximately $400 million in assets. Her conduct led to an estimated U.S. tax loss of between $3.5 and $9.5 million. Sentencing in this case is scheduled for early September 2017; Rüegg Meier faces a maximum of five years in prison, a period of supervised release, and restitution penalties.
On May 10, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memorandum to all Federal prosecutors, laying out the core principles of charging and sentencing policy for the Department of Justice under the Trump Administration. Namely, prosecutors have been instructed to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense" and "disclose to the sentencing court all facts that impact the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentences." Exceptions to the "strict application" of these guidelines must be clearly documented and then approved by a U.S. Attorney, Assistant Attorney General, or designated supervisor. This new policy memorandum explicitly rescinds certain policies set forth by the Obama Administration.
The US Department of Justice recently determined that the Singapore affiliate of UBS (UBS AG) "has complied with an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) summons for bank records" related to a taxpayer whose liabilities are at issue. The international financial institution refused to produce the records when first served the summons. After a petition was filed to enforce the summons formally, UBS and the IRS resolved the matter amicably and the petition was voluntarily dismissed.
On January 27, 2016, the Department of Justice announced that it reached its final non-prosecution agreement under Category 2 of the Swiss Bank Program with HSZH Verwaltungs AG (HSZH). The department has executed agreements with 80 banks since March 30, 2015, when it announced the first Swiss Bank Program non-prosecution agreement with BSI SA.
According to IRS data, in fiscal year 2014, 120 employment tax cases were opened for tax evasion investigation. Of those, 92 were recommended for prosecution and 82 received federal sentences. These numbers are set to increase, not only in federal cases, but in California cases as well. Caroline Ciraolo, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice Tax Division, has indicated that increasing criminal enforcement for employment tax crimes is a priority of the DOJ Tax Division. The maximum sentence for the willful failure to meet payroll filing and payment obligations is 5 years with penalties as high as $200,000.
The Department of Justice has released the results of its ongoing efforts to identify and extinguish the practices of fraudulent tax return preparers and tax scheme promotors. In the press release, the DOJ describes its most recent activities in stopping violations of federal tax laws by professionals along with an update on injunctions obtained against hundreds of tax-return preparers.Click here to read the results from the Department of Justice.