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9 Best Tax Scandals of The Year


Many years ago, I was a forensic accountant.  Everyone always thought that they were smart enough to hide what they did not want found.  However, most of the time they failed to hide the most obvious and easiest things to find.  Just in case you are even thinking about doing something wrong,  I am sharing this great article from CNN Money that talks about the craziest tax scandals that the IRS has investigated in the past year.

I have always believed that if you “do the right thing”, you can serve your customers better and sleep well at night.  Apparently not all CPA’s share the same philosophy because the last two scandals involved CPA’s!

Mostly when I read this article, I was wondering “what were they thinking”? My favorites crazy ideas to cheat the IRS include:

  • Can’t Pay Taxes, I’m Unconscious
  • Stealing $3 Million From an Armored Truck
  • Identity Theft Ring of Basketball Referees

Hiding Boxes of “Seasoned Octopus”


To reduce his tax liability, Michael Chen, the owner of Fune Ya Japanese Restaurant in San Francisco hid cash transaction records in 26 boxes  labeled “Seasoned Octopus” in a crawl space under his restaurant and pretended they were never made, according to the IRS.

While he had an encrypted spreadsheet showing total sales of nearly $2 million between 2004 and 2006, he only reported sales of a little over $500,000 on his tax returns. Chen was sentenced to almost three years in prison in January, and he must pay restitution of $459,105.

Draining and Adopted Child’s Trust Fund


Lori Wiley-Drones and Edward Drones, of Anchorage, Alaska,   adopted a child who had a trust fund of more than $830,000. The child, who was abused by previous foster parents, was granted the trust as the result of a lawsuit claiming the state of Alaska failed to protect him.

The Drones were required to keep the trust completely separate from their own accounts, but they couldn’t resist dipping into the money. They allegedly used it to remodel their home, pay credit card bills, buy cars and even splurge on Coach purses and jewelry — leaving only $15.05 in the child’s trust fund.

They also neglected to report the funds as income on their tax returns, according to the IRS. But they were finally caught, and in March the couple was sentenced to nearly four years in prison and required to pay restitution of $829,417.

Stealing $3 Million From an Armored Truck

Armored Truck

Archie Cabello, from Portland, Ore., used his job as an armored truck driver to cash in on a huge pile of cash that he was supposed to protect. Cabello was transporting $7 million for Oregon Armored Services.

To carry out the scheme, his brother took two bricks of hundred dollar bills totaling $3 million from the back of the truck and drove it to a safe deposit box, while Cabello handcuffed himself to the truck door to make it look like he had been robbed and told a passerby to call the police, according to the IRS.

Cabello allegedly spent $1 million by the time he was caught. The IRS nabbed him for failing to report the stolen funds on his taxes. Even if money is received illegally, it’s still considered income so you’re required to report it to the IRS. He pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including conspiracy to commit bank larceny, money laundering and filing a fraudulent tax return, and he was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Can’t Pay Taxes, I’m Unconscious

UnconsciousTo get out of paying $220,000 in taxes, James Stuart, from Hartland, Wisc., failed to report $900,000 in income between 2005 to 2007 — allegedly telling the IRS he didn’t have a social security number, he wasn’t an American citizen and the IRS didn’t have the right to tax him.

But perhaps his most bizarre claim of all was that he had “loaned his consciousness to a trust entity” and therefore couldn’t pay taxes, according to the IRS. Stuart was sentenced to nearly three years in prison and fined $6,000.

Burying Gold Coins In Yard

Gold CoinsMonty Ervin, from Montgomery, Ala., allegedly neglected to report more than $9 million in rental income from his property management company and failed to pay $1 million in income tax. To justify the tax evasion, Ervin attempted to renounce his U.S. citizenship multiple times, saying he was a “sovereign citizen” and not subject to the law.

He even allegedly claimed that he was the governor of Alabama in its “original jurisdiction,” and the government found that he had buried $350,000 worth of gold coins in his yard. When he was arrested this March, the Justice Department said he was carrying a notebook with coordinates for an island off the coast of Honduras.

Ervin was sentenced to 10 years in prison and is required to pay $1.4 million in restitution to the IRS.

Identity Theft Ring of Basketball Referees

RefereesTo avoid paying taxes, a group of New York City basketball referees allegedly used stolen identities of local firefighters and police officers to receive paychecks and failed to disclose that income on their tax returns, according to the IRS.

Peter Lulo, who was identified as one of the scheme’s ringleaders, was sentenced to two years in prison at the end of 2012 and ordered to pay $200,000 in restitution to the IRS.

Stealing From Nursing Home Residents

Senior CitizenAfter submitting claims to Medicare and Medicaid for nearly $33 million worth of bogus services for the nursing home he ran, George Houser from Sandy Springs, Ga., allegedly took $8 million for himself and failed to report that money to the IRS.

He allegedly bought a new home and other real estate investments, while “his elderly and defenseless nursing home residents went hungry and lived in filth and mold,” United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a statement about the case.

Houser also deducted more than $800,000 in payroll taxes from employee paychecks and held onto that money rather than giving it to the IRS as required. Houser was sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Bogus “Harmony and Happiness Charity

Bogus CharityInstead of reporting the $380,000 per year that he had earned as an accountant, Mark Pybrum, from Santa Barbara, Calif., claimed that money had been earned by his charitable organization for marital counseling, the Foundation for Harmony and Happiness.

In court, prosecutors argued that the foundation wasn’t a charity and that Pybrum was simply trying to evade the $1 million in taxes he owed between 1999 and 2002. With that extra money, Pybrum allegedly rented a mansion and bought a fishing boat, an SUV and a plane. He was sentenced to three years in prison in March.

Filing Fraudulent Returns Form Gang Members

Crossed FingersDaion Ali Bowers allegedly conspired with gang members, including Tashanda “Big Momma Blood” Parker, to file fraudulent returns in their names in the hopes of raking in big refunds.

Bowers, from Columbia, S.C., was charged with filing more than 600 fake returns — claiming more than $2.5 million refunds — for clients including Bloods gang members. Last month, he was sentenced to 5 years in jail and ordered to pay restitution of $1.2 million.

Source: 5/20/13 CNN Money writer Blake Ellis

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