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Tax Enforcement Actions

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the United States agency with primary responsibility for enforcing federal tax laws, working with the Department of Justice. Whistleblowers with knowledge of violations of the federal tax laws can submit a claim to the IRS under the IRS Whistleblower Reward Program, and may be eligible to receive a monetary reward.

Below are summaries of recently-announced settlements or successful prosecutions by the IRS or DOJ. If you believe you have information about fraud or wrongful conduct which could give  rise to a claim under the IRS Whistleblower Reward Program, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.

April 9, 2020

Auction house Christie’s Inc. and its affiliates will pay up to $16.7 million and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve claims arising from their failure to register to collect and to collect New York state and local taxes on purchases made in and/or delivered to New York between 2013 and 2017, despite having a legal obligation to do so. DANY

March 11, 2020

The owner and operator of multiple parcel delivery businesses in Florida has been sentenced to 2 years in prison and ordered to pay $9 million in restitution for withholding over $10.8 million in payroll taxes.  Despite his business earning over $100 million in revenue, and despite withholding taxes from hundreds of employees, Ricardo Betancourt failed to actually pay it to the IRS and instead used those funds to finance personal expenses and other business ventures.  DOJ

March 2, 2020

A man in Colorado who was part of a tax fraud scheme involving renewable fuel credits has been sentenced to nearly 7 years in prison and ordered to pay $7.2 million in restitution.  Along with co-conspirators, Matthew Taylor created a fake company, Shintan Inc., that they then used to seek out and obtain over $7.2 million in tax credits for renewable fuel that Shintan never actually produced.  The fraud ran from 2010 to 2013 and personally netted Taylor about $4.5 million.  DOJ

February 11, 2020

Property developer Monique Brady of Rhode Island has been sentenced to 8 years in prison and ordered to pay $4.8 million in restitution for defrauding 23 investors of $10.3 million in a Ponzi scheme that ran from 2014 to 2018.  Brady told investors, many of them her own family, friends, and business associates, that her property rehabilitation business, MNB LLC, had secured contracts to perform large scale rehabilitation work on foreclosed properties in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.  To entice investors, Brady promised a 50% return on profits and showed forged emails that purported to show the contracts were valid.  In reality, however, the jobs she was hired to do were menial and paid less than $1,000, and she was using investor funds to finance an extravagant lifestyle.  When she became the subject of a federal investigation, she told investors to delete all records of their investments with her company, then met with federal officials to request that they investigate her investors for usury, before attempting to abscond to Vietnam.  DOJ; USAO RI

January 2, 2020

A private bank headquartered in Switzerland, Union Bancaire Privée, has agreed to pay an additional $14 million for its failure to comply in part with a 2016 non-prosecution agreement.  Between 2015 and 2016, DOJ had signed non-prosecution agreements with some 80 Swiss banks, imposing penalties of $1.36 billion in total for the banks' role in facilitating fraud.  As part of the agreements, the banks were required to disclose all U.S.-related accounts that it knew or should have known about upon signing, and had agreed to continue disclosing all material information related to U.S. accounts thereafter; however, UBP failed to do so.  DOJ

December 20, 2019

Zurich-based Swiss bank Coutts & Co Ltd. has agreed to pay $27.9 million in an amendment to a 2015 non-prosecution agreement under the Swiss Bank Program between the bank and the U.S.  In 2015, Coutts reported that it held and managed 1,337 U.S. related accounts, with assets under management exceeding $2 billion, and paid a penalty of $78,484,000. In the amendment, Coutts acknowledges that it should have disclosed 311 additional U.S.-related accounts at the time of the signing of the non-prosecution agreement. DOJ

December 10, 2019

HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay $192 million for conspiring with U.S. clients and others to evade taxes over a ten year period.  At the peak of the scheme in 2007, HSBC Switzerland was estimated to hold undeclared assets worth approximately $1.26 billion on behalf of U.S. clients, before it self-disclosed to authorities three years later.  The resulting fine, which took into account the bank’s extensive cooperation with the investigation, represents about $61 million in restitution to the IRS, $72 million in civil forfeiture to the DOJ, and $59 million in penalties.  DOJ

December 3, 2019

The government has reached a settlement agreement with Franchise Group Intermediate L 1 LLC, the national franchisor and owner of Liberty Tax Service, one of the largest tax preparation service providers in the U.S.  The government alleged that Liberty failed to maintain adequate controls over tax returns prepared by its franchisees, and failed to take steps to prevent the filing of potentially false or fraudulent returns.  The proposed judgment bars Liberty from employing certain individuals, including its founder and former CEO John Hewitt, and requires Liberty to implement specific compliance and reporting procedures, including the implementation of an internal whistleblower program.  DOJ

November 8, 2019

Two New York City real estate development companies, Mica Gabe Brooklyn LLC and Brooklyn Warehouse 180 LLC, will pay $3 million to resolve claims that they secured a New York tax break, Section 421-a, by falsely stating that building service employees would be paid prevailing wages when, in fact, employees hired at the buildings were paid less than the wages required by law.  The $3 million settlement consists of $2.5 million in damages under Section 421-a and the New York False Claims Act, and $415,000 in back wages.  The investigation was initiated with the filing of a whistleblower complaint under the NY FCA by local union 32BJ SEIU, which will receive a portion of the damages as a whistleblower reward.  NY

November 6, 2019

Winston Shrout, who became a fugitive after being sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2017, has been captured and returned to custody.  Shrout led seminars promoting the use of fraudulent financial instruments as a means to avoid taxes, and sold materials for the preparation of such fraudulent instruments.  In addition, Shrout failed to file tax returns from 2009 through 2014.   DOJ
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