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Kids and cash

Tax Cheat Rap Sheet:
Week ending June 1, 2007

Criminal_2_2 For this week's look at tax cheats, we're going with just two cases because this weekend has turned out to be just as overloaded as Monday through Friday was.

But I think you'll find each instance ranks quite high in the "you've got to be kidding" category.

First, we have another big accounting firm involved with bogus tax shelters, a la KPMG and Jenkens & Gilchrist. So what, you say?

Here's what: Federal prosecutors say one of the illegal shelters devised by Ernst & Young employees used the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as the basis to cheat the government of hundreds of millions of tax dollars.

Martin Nissenbaum, Richard Shapiro, Robert Coplan and Brian Vaughan were indicted by a New York-based federal grand jury last week. They allegedly set up illegal shelters for E&Y clients with taxable income generally in excess of $10-to-$20 million in order to eliminate or reduce federal taxes.

Prosecutors say the employees, two of whom no longer work for E&Y, created "false and fraudulent factual scenarios" such as the World Trade Center attacks, which sent the value of investments plunging.

After obtaining the shelters' tax benefits, according to the indictment, some of the clients terminated their trading partnerships using a letter devised by one of the defendants in which "clients falsely attributed their decision to discontinue their trading activities to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and to 'possible economic repercussions resulting from such attacks.'"

Not that you expect decorum and class when it comes to tax cheating, but using 9/11 is particularly distasteful.

'Poor pitiful me:' For our second tax crime this week, we turn to a Florida woman who finally has to pay, sort of, for stiffing Uncle Sam of more than $3 million.

Mary Ham was convicted in January, along with her boyfriend, for refusing to pay $3.6 million in taxes, interest and penalties. Last week, she was sentenced to two years in federal prison. That was less than half the recommended jail time.

Apparently, the judge bought Ham's tearful argument that she "allowed dominant men in [her] life to be in control." Yeah, that and dominant greed.

Ham and her co-defendant in the case, Fred Suttles, owned Diamond Brokers of Northwest Florida. He also is the father of her younger daughter. In April, the same judge sentenced Suttles to 14 years.

At least Ham also got three years of supervised release after her prison term and was fined a <cough> whopping <cough> $10,000.


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Referring to allegations of tax fraud as "tax crimes", and referring to them as "tax cheating" and "distasteful" is un-American, since allegations are only allegations. The government has been piling on for awhile, as the softening of the Kpmg tax "fraud" case indicates. Furthermore, those writing about such matters rarely understand much about the actual facts and transactions underneath, and thus understand little of the merits (or lack thereof) of the government's allegations. My advice is to be more skeptical of allegations, less cynical towards those who muct defend themselves against them, more respectful of the rights of honest taxpayers to minimize their tax burdens, and stop with the contempt prior to investigation.

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