Ohio Attorney Convicted of Tax Fraud and Obstruction of Justice Crimes
The Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today that attorney Aristotle “Rick” R. Matsa, of Worthington, Ohio, was convicted of numerous tax fraud and obstruction of justice related offenses, including witness tampering and making a false statement. In addition, Rick Matsa and his mother, Loula Z. Matsa, were convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice, commit perjury, and make false statements, following a five-week trial in Columbus, Ohio, before the Honorable Edmund A. Sargus Jr.
Rick Matsa individually was convicted of one count of a corrupt endeavor to obstruct and impede the IRS, 15 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false and fraudulent tax returns, that related to five different trusts; one count of willfully failing to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR); one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, commit perjury, and make false statements; two counts of witness tampering; one count of submitting a false statement; and one count of obstruction of justice.
According to the indictment, which was returned on June 23, 2010, and the evidence admitted at trial, Rick Matsa, who in addition to being an attorney was also an architect, a real estate broker, and a licensed minister in Ohio, created and operated several nominee entities in order to disguise and conceal his income and assets from the IRS. The false trust return charges relate to filings for at least five separate trust entities during the tax years 2003 to 2005. In fact, the evidence at trial showed that the trusts had been filing similar returns dating back to 1990. Each of the trusts reported receiving significant amounts of interest income each year, generated from funds held in numerous bank accounts, yet no income tax was reported due as a result of fraudulently claimed deductions for distributions on the trust returns that were purportedly paid to a foreign beneficiary each year. However, the evidence at trial showed, instead, that Rick Matsa used funds from those trusts to purchase a 150-acre farm in Hocking County and a home in Worthington, both of which he used as a personal residence.
The evidence at trial also showed that Rick Matsa violated FBAR, the foreign bank account reporting requirements, by failing to disclose his ownership and control over a foreign bank account held in The Netherlands. The evidence at trial was that Rick Matsa maintained more than $300,000 in funds in that undisclosed foreign bank during 2003.
The evidence at trial further showed that after learning of the federal grand jury investigation into his business activities in May of 2006, Rick Matsa, together with Loula Matsa and others, conspired to obstruct the investigation by misleading and concealing evidence from the grand jury, making false statements to the grand jury, creating false documents, tampering with witnesses, and lying to federal investigators.
George Pappas, formerly an attorney in Urbana, Ohio, who previously pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal agents and during the grand jury investigation, testified at trial. Pappas testified that he falsely claimed ownership of Rick Matsa’s law firm, located in the Short North area of Columbus, in their efforts to withhold records from the grand jury.
Rick Matsa’s tenant, P. Maria Galloway, the owner of an art gallery next door to Rick Matsa’s law firm, also testified after pleading guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice. Galloway testified that she signed numerous documents at Rick Matsa’s direction, including federal income tax returns for Rick Matsa’s law firm and a number of his nominee entities, which Rick Matsa used as part of his scheme to obstruct the IRS.
“Today’s verdict shows that attorneys and other professionals who violate the tax laws or who attempt to obstruct justice will be held accountable for their actions,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division Kathryn Keneally. “Those who illegally attempt to hide their income and assets from the IRS through fraudulent trusts or offshore bank accounts will be prosecuted and punished.”
“The government will not tolerate abusive tax schemes that use offshore accounts to illegally escape taxes,” said Rick A. Raven, Acting Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation. “Those Americans who file accurate, honest and timely tax returns can be assured that the government will hold accountable those who don’t.”
Rick Matsa faces a maximum potential sentence of 108 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $3.25 million, and five years of supervised release. Loula Matsa faces a maximum potential sentence of five years imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, and three years of supervised release. No sentencing date has yet been scheduled.
Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally, and Mark D’Alessandro, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio on this matter, commended the IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agents who investigated the case, as well as Tax Division Trial Attorneys Richard M. Rolwing, Jorge Almonte, and Steve Descano who prosecuted the case.
More information about the Justice Department’s Tax Division and its enforcement efforts is available at www.justice.gov/tax .