MIAMI BEACH HOTEL DEVELOPERS CONVICTED OF TAX FRAUD
Father, Son Concealed More than $150 Million in Assets; Failed to Report $49 Million in Income
Mauricio Cohen Assor, 77, and his son, Leon Cohen-Levy, 46, each with residences in Miami Beach, Fla., have been convicted of conspiring to defraud the United States and filing false tax returns. After a month-long trial, a Fort Lauderdale jury found the defendants guilty of conspiring to defraud the United States and filing false tax returns. The defendants concealed more than $150 million in assets, including Miami Beach mansions, yachts, luxury automobiles, and bank accounts containing tens of millions of dollars. The defendants also failed to report more than $49 million in income to the Internal Revenue Service.
U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Tax cheats are on notice that they can't hide assets offshore and expect to get away with it. Honest Americans who pay their fair share of taxes deserve nothing less.”
“Those who still think they can hide their assets offshore, need to rethink their strategy. They will be found out and prosecuted. U.S. taxpayers who honestly report their income and pay their taxes can rest assured that those who conceal their assets offshore to avoid paying their fair share will be investigated and prosecuted by the IRS and Department of Justice,” said John A. DiCicco, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Tax Division.
“These verdicts send a strong message to Americans who think they can hide their money or assets offshore in order to dodge their income tax obligations,” said Daniel W. Auer, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS, Criminal Investigation Division. “With the advancement of the global markets and compliance in the banking industry, the world is becoming a smaller place in which to hide money or assets. The IRS is actively working with foreign governments to share information and will continue to bring justice to those who do not comply with the tax laws.”
Specifically, Mauricio Cohen was found guilty of conspiring to defraud the United States and two substantive counts of filing a false tax return. Leon Cohen was found guilty of conspiring to defraud the United States and two substantive counts of filing a false tax return. He was acquitted of one additional substantive count charging the same. Sentencing is scheduled for December 17, 2010 before U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. At sentencing, both defendants face a maximum of eleven years’ imprisonment. Each defendant will also be liable to the IRS for unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest. Both defendants have been detained since their arrest on April 15, 2010.
According to court documents and trial testimony, the two men and their co-conspirators used nominees and shell companies formed in so-called tax haven jurisdictions, including the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Panama, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, to conceal their assets and income from the IRS. To further conceal their assets and income from the IRS, evidence produced during trial showed the men also provided false and forged documents to banks, opened bank accounts in the name of nominees, titled their personal residences and luxury vehicles in the name of shell companies, filed fraudulent tax returns, failed to file other tax returns, suborned perjury in a civil matter pending before the New York Supreme Court, and induced other individuals to make false statements to federal law enforcement agents. Among the nominees used by the defendants were their personal secretary and their limousine driver.
According to court documents and trial testimony, Mauricio Cohen Assor and Leon Cohen-Levy were the developers and owners of several residential hotels known by the trade name Flatotel International. Flatotel had locations in France, Spain, Brussels, and New York City. In 2000, the defendants sold their New York hotel and generated proceeds of $33 million. The defendants directed that the sale proceeds be transferred to a bank account at HSBC in Switzerland, which account was opened in the name of a Panamanian bearer share company. The income earned from the sale of the hotel was never reported on U.S. tax returns by the Cohens or by any of their related entities.
According to court documents and trial testimony, among the assets and income the Cohens concealed from the IRS are a $45 million investment portfolio, a condominium at Trump World Tower in New York City valued as much as $10 million, the personal residence of Mauricio Cohen Assor on Fisher Island in Miami Beach worth approximately $20 million, the personal residence of Leon Cohen Levy in Miami Beach worth approximately $26 million, the personal residence of the daughter of Mauricio Cohen Assor in Bal Harbor, Fla., commercial properties valued in excess of $55 million in Miami Beach, luxury vehicles, including a Rolls Royce Phantom, a Porsche Carrera GT, a Bentley, a Ferrari Testarossa, a BMW Z8, a Dodge Viper, a limousine and a $1.2 million helicopter.
Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Acting Assistant Attorney General John DiCicco, and Internal Revenue Service Special Agent in Charge Daniel W. Auer commended the investigative efforts of the IRS agents involved in this case, as well as Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Neiman, Trial Attorney Mark F. Daly and Senior Litigation Counsel Kevin M. Downing of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting the case.
More information about the Justice Department’s Tax Division and its enforcement efforts is available at www.usdoj.gov/tax/.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.