Appraiser in Billion-Dollar Fraudulent Tax Shelter Sentenced to A Year in Prison
For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Defendant Also Ordered to Pay More Than $129 Million in Restitution
A North Carolina man was sentenced today to 12 months in prison for his role in conspiring to defraud the United States in a syndicated conservation easement tax shelter scheme – involving inflated charitable contribution deductions – that claimed more than $1.3 billion in fraudulent tax deductions.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from 2008 to 2019, Walter “Terry” Douglas Roberts II, of Flat Rock, North Carolina, conspired with others to fraudulently inflate the value of the conservation easements upon which the tax deductions were based.
At the trial of his co-conspirators, Jack Fisher and James Sinnott, Roberts testified that he became a licensed appraiser in 2007 and began providing appraisals of conservation easements that same year. From 2008 through 2019, as part of the scheme, Roberts said that he fraudulently inflated the values of at least 18 conservation easements by, among other things, not following normal appraisal methods, making false statements and either personally manipulating or relying on knowingly manipulated data to reach a targeted appraisal value – communicated to him by co-conspirators – that would result in the desired tax deduction amount. Roberts admitted that he inflated some of his appraisals by at least 600%. The 18 conservation easements Roberts fraudulently appraised as part of the scheme claimed approximately $466,961,000 in tax deductions, resulting in a tax loss to the IRS exceeding $129,000,000.
Fisher and Sinnott were convicted at trial and are presently awaiting sentencing for their crimes. To date, at least five additional defendants have pleaded guilty to criminal conduct related to Fisher’s syndicated conservation easement tax shelters, including Stein and Corey Agee, Ralph Anderson, James Benkoil and Randall Lenz.
In addition to his prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Timothy C. Batten for the Northern District of Georgia ordered Roberts to serve three years of supervised release, perform 120 hours of community service and pay $129,210,760 in restitution to the United States.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia and Chief James C. Lee of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
IRS-CI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Richard M. Rolwing, Grace Albinson, Parker Tobin, Jessica Kraft and Nicholas J. Schilling Jr. of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Huber, Deputy Chief of the Complex Frauds Section for the Northern District of Georgia prosecuted the case,
Updated November 14, 2023
Press Release Number: 23-1276