California Businessman Charged with Conspiring with Israeli Banks to Hide Income
Concealed Foreign Accounts and Failed to Report More Than $20 Million
A Los Angeles, California, businessman was charged today in an information, which charges one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of corruptly endeavoring to impair and impede the due administration of the internal revenue laws, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo, head of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
Masud Sarshar, who owned and operated Apparel Limited Inc., a business that designed, manufactured and sold clothing and other apparel, signed a plea agreement admitting that he maintained several undeclared bank accounts at Bank Leumi and two other Israeli banks, both in his name and in the names of entities that he created. For decades, with the assistance of at least two relationship managers from Bank Leumi and a second Israeli bank (Israeli Bank A), Sarshar hid tens of millions of dollars in assets in these accounts in an effort to conceal income and obstruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As alleged in the information, between 2006 and 2009, Sarshar diverted more than $21 million in untaxed gross business income to these undeclared bank accounts. Between 2007 and 2012, Sarshar also earned more than $2.5 million in interest income from these accounts. Sarshar omitted all of this income from his 2006 through 2011 individual and corporate tax returns and he failed to report his authority over and ownership of these bank accounts in false Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs) that he submitted to the U.S. Department of Treasury.
Sarshar signed a plea agreement to the charges in the information, agreeing to plead guilty and pay more than $8.3 million in restitution to the IRS. If the court accepts the parties’ agreement, Sarshar will be sentenced to 24 months in prison. In addition, Sarshar stipulated to a civil penalty in the amount of 50 percent of the high balance of his undeclared accounts to resolve his civil liability for not disclosing the existence of his Israeli bank accounts.
“Mr. Sarshar stashed millions in secret foreign financial accounts in Israel and then sought to use these accounts to evade his U.S. tax obligations, seeking to cover his tracks along the way,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo. “The message of this case is clear: There are no safe havens. If you are concealing assets and income in undeclared offshore accounts – or are a banker, an asset manager or otherwise are assisting accountholders in such criminal conduct, your only viable option is to come forward and accept responsibility for your actions. Those who continue to violate U.S. tax laws will be held accountable and pay a heavy price.”
According to the information and statement of facts, Sarshar’s relationship managers at Israeli Bank A (RM1) and at Bank Leumi (RM2) visited him frequently in Los Angeles. At his request, neither bank sent him account statements by mail, but rather, RM1 and RM2 provided Sarshar with his account information in person. For example, RM2 loaded electronic copies of Sarshar’s Bank Leumi account statements on a USB drive, which she concealed in a necklace worn during her trips to the United States. To further maintain the secrecy of his accounts, Sarshar’s meetings with RM1 sometimes occurred in Sarshar’s car. RM1 and RM2 also used these visits to Los Angeles to offer Sarshar other bank products, including “back-to-back” loans. Through back-to-back loans, which Bank Leumi made to Sarshar through its branch in the United States and which Sarshar collateralized with funds from his account at Israeli Bank A, Sarshar was able to bring back to the United States approximately $19 million of his offshore assets without creating a paper trail or otherwise disclosing the existence of the offshore accounts to U.S. authorities. At the direction of RM1 and RM2, Sarshar also obtained Israeli and Iranian passports in an effort to avoid being flagged as a U.S. citizen by the compliance departments at both banks. After receiving both new passports and still being flagged as a U.S. citizen by their compliance departments, RM1 and RM2 advised Sarshar to transfer his remaining funds to yet another Israeli bank, which he did in late 2011.
“As the filing of today’s criminal charges demonstrate, the days of bank secrecy is rapidly changing,” said Chief Richard Weber for IRS-Criminal Investigation. “There's no safe place for taxpayers to divert and hide income anywhere in the world. IRS-CI works vigorously to stop offshore tax schemes such as this one and is proud that our forensic accounting skills helped uncover over $21 million in untaxed gross business income in this investigation.”
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo commended special agents from IRS-Criminal Investigation, who are investigating the case and Assistant Chief Tino M. Lisella and Trial Attorney Timothy M. Russo, of the Tax Division, who are prosecuting this case. The Tax Division thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California for its assistance.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.