Justice News

Department of Justice
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Alabama Resident Sentenced to Prison for Filing False Tax Returns in Connection with Embezzlement Scheme

WASHINGTON - Sims Lawson Jr., a resident of Killen, Ala., was sentenced to 70 months in prison by Judge R. David Proctor, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today.

In June 2009, Lawson pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns for years 2002 through 2004. According to the plea agreement and statements made during the sentencing hearing, Lawson willfully omitted from his tax returns income that he had embezzled from an estate that he managed. Lawson was hired in 2002 to co-manage an estate, and his duties included managing the books and records of the estate, collecting on loans made by the estate, and determining the estate’s value for tax purposes. In 2005, the estate received an ex parte court order removing Lawson from his responsibilities as trustee. It was later determined that Lawson had misappropriated at least $721,417 in 2002, 2003 and 2004, which he also failed to report on his personal tax returns. The estate also paid Lawson an additional $297,352, which he failed to report on his individual tax return.

According to the plea agreement and statements made during the sentencing hearing, throughout the time period he was employed with the estate, Lawson misappropriated money from the estate in several ways. First, Lawson wrote checks from the estate payable to himself and used estate checks to pay his personal expenses.

Additionally, Lawson fraudulently used estate checks to pay for the installation of a swimming pool at his personal residence, renovations on his personal residence, and extravagant trips to locales including New York City, Las Vegas, the Sundance Film Festival, the Bahamas and Disney World. Lawson also purchased timeshares at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, as well as timeshares at the Disney World resort in Orlando, Fla., with embezzled funds. Finally, Lawson also used funds from the estate to purchase jewelry and tickets to various events.

Acting Assistant Attorney General John A. DiCicco of the Justice Department’s Tax Division thanked Tax Division attorneys Jed Silversmith and Matthew Mueller, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Atwood, who prosecuted the case. He also thanked the IRS Criminal Investigation agents in the Birmingham office who investigated the case.

More information about the Justice Department’s Tax Division and its enforcement efforts is available at http://www.usdoj.gov/tax.

Press Release Number: 
Updated September 15, 2014