April 20, 2010
TOPEKA PROMOTER SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS IN $75 MILLION RENAISSANCE TAX FRAUD
KANSAS CITY, KAN. – The founder of a Topeka-based tax services company who was convicted on more than 70 counts including mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy has been sentenced to 240 months in federal prison, restitution of $10 million to the IRS and a forfeiture money judgment of $75 million, U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch announced today.
U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch joined with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to announce the sentencing of Michael Craig Cooper, 55, Topeka, Kan., the founder and president of a Topeka-based company called Renaissance, The Tax People.
During a trial in 2008 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan., prosecutors presented evidence that from 1997 to 2002 Cooper and others conspired to defraud the United States and their clients by marketing a program to sell individuals tax deductions through false or misleading representations. Renaissance falsely claimed that its clients could deduct personal expenses, including children’s allowances, commuting miles, educational expenses, and vacations as tax deductible business expenses. This scheme was marketed under the names Renaissance - The Tax People, and Advantage International Marketing (AIM).
A jury found Cooper guilty on 73 counts including one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, 16 counts of mail fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, 41 counts of unlawful monetary transactions and two counts of money laundering.
During the sentence hearing, the court found Renaissance to have been a broad illegal scheme that defrauded thousands of individuals and the IRS. The court also found Cooper had previously defied a Shawnee County District Court order to return from Mexico and that he was part of a plan to escape from custody.
“During tax filing season, taxpayers should be aware of unscrupulous promoters of frivolous tax advice,” said John A Dicco, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “Those individuals who promote illegal tax schemes face prosecution and, if convicted, significant prison sentences and substantial fees.”
Three other defendants charged in the indictment – Daniel Joel Gleason, Jesse Ayala Cota and Todd Eugene Strand – pleaded guilty in connection with the case. Gleason, previously the owner and operator of a tax preparation service entitled My Tax Man, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and aiding or assisting in the preparation of filing a false tax return. He was sentenced to 78 months.
Cota, a former Internal Revenue Service District Director for the Southern District of California, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States on April 26, 2007. He was sentenced to 24 months.
Strand, pleaded guilty on March 27, 2006, to conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of mail fraud. In his plea, Strand admitted that the conspiracy defrauded Renaissance customers of more than $75 million, and caused a tax loss of more than $20 million. He was sentenced to 51 months.
Welch commended the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Postal Inspection, Kansas Attorney General’s Office, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott C. Rask of the District of Kansas and Tax Division Attorney Charles A. O’Reilly for their work on the case.