California Businesswoman Agrees To Plead Guilty To Conspiracy To Conceal Israeli Bank Accounts
Los Angeles Resident Is Second Individual Charged With Conspiring With Bankers To Hide Secret Israeli Bank Accounts
WASHINGTON – Guity Kashfi, of Los Angeles, was charged today in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California with conspiracy to defraud the United States, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) announced. A signed plea agreement was filed along with the charging document.
According to court documents, Kashfi, a U.S. citizen, maintained undeclared bank accounts at an international bank headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel. The accounts were held in the names of nominees in order to keep them secret from the United States government. Kashfi used the accounts to obtain "back-to-back" loans from a branch of the bank in Los Angeles. Although the loans were secured or collateralized with certificates of deposit held in Kashfi's undeclared offshore accounts, that fact was concealed to keep Kashfi's offshore accounts secret.
According to the plea agreement, in 2008, Kashfi was told by a banker in Los Angeles that the bank was going to use the funds in her account in Israel to pay off her back-to-back loans in Los Angeles. Rather than pay off the loans, Kashfi transferred approximately $2 million to an account located in Luxembourg at a branch of a second Israeli bank. Kashfi did this to avoid repatriating funds from her first Israeli account back to the United States to pay back her loans in Los Angeles. Kashfi eventually used the funds in Luxembourg to obtain a new back-to-back loan from a branch of the second Israeli bank located in Los Angeles. In 2009, Kashfi went to Luxembourg to close her account. While there, two foreign bankers advised Kashfi that her money was safe in Luxembourg because the bank was a private bank and no one could get information relating to bank accounts located in Luxembourg. In 2011, Kashfi closed all her accounts in Luxembourg by signing paperwork in Los Angeles. She then transferred the funds to banks in the United States.
According to the plea agreement, Kashfi never told her accountant about her undeclared accounts, and failed to report any income from the accounts on her individual income tax returns that were filed with the IRS. For tax years 2005 through 2011, Kashfi failed to report interest income of approximately $221,306. The highest balance in Kashfi's undeclared accounts was approximately $2,501,469.
Kashfi is the second defendant charged in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California with failing to report income from undeclared accounts in Israel.
On March 29, 2013, Zvi Sperling of Beverly Hills, Calif., appearing before United States District Judge John F. Walter, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with back-to-back loans obtained in Los Angeles that were secured by funds in undeclared bank accounts in Israel. For tax years 2005 through 2008, Sperling failed to report income of approximately $381,563. The highest balance in Sperling's undeclared accounts was approximately $4 million.
"Today's guilty plea is a stark reminder that those who attempt to hide their income and assets from the United States are running out of places to hide," said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Tax Division Kathryn Keneally. "The Internal Revenue Service will find the hiding places and the Department of Justice will criminally prosecute the tax cheats. And in the end, they will still owe and be required to pay the taxes due."
"We will continue to work aggressively to uncover and prosecute those who hide unreported income in secret offshore bank accounts as well as the employees of financial institutions and the financial institutions themselves who facilitate such crimes," said U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte Jr.
"Most individuals file truthful tax returns voluntarily and pay their share of taxes," said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-CI. "As these two defendants have learned, hiding income and assets offshore is not tax planning, it's tax fraud. The IRS is vigorously pursuing unreported income in hidden offshore accounts, as well as the banks and bankers who assist them."
United States citizens and residents who have an interest in, or signature or other authority over, a financial account in a foreign country with assets in excess of $10,000 are required to disclose the existence of such account on Schedule B, Part III, of their individual income tax returns. Additionally, U.S. citizens and residents must file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Reports (FBAR) with the U.S. Treasury disclosing any financial account in a foreign country with assets in excess of $10,000 in which they have a financial interest, or over which they have signature or other authority.
Both Kashfi and Sperling have agreed to pay a civil penalty in the amount of 50 percent of the high balance of their undeclared accounts to resolve their civil liability with the IRS for failing to file FBARs.
Both Kashfi and Sperling face a potential maximum prison term of five years and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Assistant Attorney General Keneally and U.S. Attorney Birotte thanked special agents of IRS-CI, who investigated the case, and Tax Division Senior Litigation Counsel John E. Sullivan and Assistant Chief Elizabeth C. Hadden, who prosecuted these cases, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sandra A. Brown of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, who assisted with the prosecutions.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/tax.