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Tax Scam Promoter "Judge Rizzo" and Wife Sentenced to Prison

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Tax scam promoters John J. Rizzo and his wife, Carol A. Rizzo, were sentenced, respectively, to 43 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release and 24 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release in connection with a tax evasion scheme, the Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today. In addition to the prison sentences, each of the Rizzos was issued a fine of $10,000, instructed to cooperate with the IRS in payment of tax liabilities, and prohibited from providing tax advice. Both of the Rizzos-who have been in custody since their arrests in April 2003-were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Roslyn O. Silver in Phoenix, Arizona. “Tax scam promoters should expect to be investigated, indicted, prosecuted, and upon conviction, to serve serious time in federal prison,” said Eileen J. O’Connor, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The Department of Justice and the IRS will vigorously protect the integrity of the federal tax system.”

On February 4, 2004, John J. Rizzo-a former municipal court judge-and Carol A. Rizzo each pleaded guilty to conspiring to impede and impair the IRS in the ascertainment and collection of income tax and willfully failing to file a federal income tax return for 2000. John Rizzo also pleaded guilty to felony charges of willfully aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false income tax return and perjury before the grand jury.

“The government will not tolerate abusive tax schemes that use offshore accounts to illegally escape taxes,” said Nancy Jardini, IRS Chief, Criminal Investigation. “Those Americans who file accurate, honest and timely returns can be assured that the government will hold accountable those who don’t.”

“It is tragic when a former member of the judiciary, charged with upholding the law, encourages others to violate those laws,” said Paul K. Charlton, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.

As described in the plea agreements, from 1999 to 2002 John Rizzo was a prominent speaker at offshore seminars hosted by Institute of Global Prosperity (Global Prosperity). At these seminars, Mr. Rizzo promoted the Millennium 2000 Reliance Defense Program (Millennium Program) to thousands of people resulting in more than $4 million in sales revenue for the Rizzos. The program included written materials taxpayers could use to establish purported good faith reliance defenses against potential criminal tax prosecutions. At an earlier court hearing, a videotape was played showing Mr. Rizzo appearing at Global Prosperity seminars wearing judicial robes and portraying himself as a former judge and an expert on tax law.

The Rizzos also admitted that they provided opinion letters, materials and documentation that claimed, among other things, that taxpayers could lawfully stop filing income tax returns and stop their employers from withholding income taxes from their wages. This claim was based upon the long-rejected notion that the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution had not been legally ratified.

The Rizzos further admitted that they concealed the income they earned from the sales of the Millennium Program through various means. They used offshore bank accounts, third-party merchant accounts to process credit card sales, and requested payments from customers in cash, money orders, and checks with the payee lines left blank. John Rizzo also admitted to knowingly providing false and misleading testimony to a grand jury by testifying that he and his wife filed federal tax returns for the years 1999, 2000, and 2001, when in fact, he and his wife had not filed such tax returns as required by law.

Assistant Attorney General O’Connor thanked Tax Division trial attorneys Larry Wszalek and Mark Odulio for prosecuting the case. She also thanked the special agents of the IRS whose assistance was essential to the successful investigation and prosecution of the case.