FRESNO, CA — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner, Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration (TIGTA) Special Agent in Charge Julie Parodi, IRS – Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Scott O’Briant, and Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Anthony D. Williams announced that Kulwant Lasher, 54, an owner of Lasher Brothers Trucking Company Inc., based in Los Banos, was sentenced today to four years and nine months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring to bribe an IRS Revenue Officer and failing to pay employee withholding and payroll (FICA) taxes. His brother, Tarlochan Lasher, 56, also an owner of Lasher Brothers Trucking Company Inc., was sentenced to one year in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for conspiring to failing to pay employee withholding and payroll taxes. They were also ordered to pay no less than $739,767 in restitution, with the final amount to be determined by the IRS.
“Those who seek to bribe officers of the Internal Revenue Service, be warned: cases that involve the bribery of federal officials will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
At sentencing, Chief U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii noted that this was a serious case involving “a large amount of money and a lifestyle that needs to change.”
Kulwant Lasher and Tarlochan Lasher pleaded guilty in October 2010 and admitted that as corporate officers and owners of Lasher Brothers Trucking Company Inc., they conspired to fail to account for and pay employee withholding and FICA taxes for tax years 2003 through 2007. The government also presented evidence at sentencing that the brothers diverted funds that could have been applied to the payment of employee withholding and FICA taxes to cover USA Express Cab, Kulwant Lasher’s taxicab business in San Jose, and personal expenses, including life insurance, golf club memberships, luxury vehicles, and law school tuition for one of the brother’s children.
Kulwant Lasher also admitted that he had engaged in a scheme to bribe an IRS Revenue Officer to abate Lasher Brothers Trucking Company’s $2.4 million tax liability. Kulwant Lasher admitted that he had offered to pay an undercover IRS Revenue Officer $600,000 in cash to eliminate the Lasher Brothers Trucking Company’s $2.4 million tax liability. In meetings at a restaurant and gas station, Kulwant Lasher gave the Revenue Officer $56,500 in cash, handed over his 2003 BMW 745L, and gave him a quitclaim deed for his residence in Los Banos. Immediately, after delivering his BMW to the Revenue Officer, Kulwant Lasher called a BMW dealership in Fresno and asked to be picked up, because he wanted to buy a new BMW. When the dealership asked about a $747,000 tax lien on his credit record, Kulwant Lasher, knowing of his tax liability to the IRS, told the salesman that he had already paid it. Kulwant Lasher then purchased a new 745 BMW for approximately $95,000.
According to TIGTA, the tax liability that Kulwant Lasher attempted to abate by bribing a Revenue Officer was the largest in the country involving the bribery of a Revenue Officer.
This case is a product of an Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) effort. OCDETF is an interagency program that investigates and prosecutes the most significant drug trafficking and money laundering organizations throughout the U.S. by leveraging the combined expertise of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. OCDETF task force members in this case included TIGTA of the San Francisco Field Division, the IRS-Criminal Investigation, and the DEA. The case originally arose out of a joint DEA Fresno Resident Office and California Department of Justice Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE) OCDETF investigation, which led to the federal prosecution of Sergio Reynol Padilla, 44, of Merced. Last year, Padilla was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months in prison for a drug trafficking and money laundering conspiracy. The money laundering portion of the conspiracy involved the laundering of $100,000 in proceeds obtained from Padilla’s drug trafficking activities through the accounts of Lasher Brothers Trucking Company. Assistant United States Attorney Karen A. Escobar prosecuted both the Lasher and Padilla cases.