U.S. Accountant Pleads Guilty in Panama Papers Investigation
A Massachusetts-based accountant who was charged along with three others in connection with a decades-long criminal scheme perpetrated by Mossack Fonseca & Co. (Mossack Fonseca), a Panamanian-based global law firm, and its related entities, pleaded guilty today to wire and tax fraud, money laundering, aggravated identity theft and other charges.
Richard Gaffey, aka “Dick Gaffey,” 75, of Medfield, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit tax evasion and to defraud the United States, one count of wire fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy, four counts of willful failure to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Reports 114), and one count of aggravated identity theft.
“This defendant worked with the Mossack Fonseca law firm and exploited his role as an accountant to create fraudulent shell companies and defraud the United States of millions of dollars over decades,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s guilty plea reflects the Department’s commitment to prosecute financial professionals and other gatekeepers to the U.S. financial system who abuse the public’s trust.”
“Richard Gaffey went to extraordinary lengths to circumvent U.S. tax laws in order to maintain Harald Joachim von der Goltz’s wealth and hide it from the IRS,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman of the Southern District of New York. “Using the specialized criminal services of global law firm Mossack Fonseca, Gaffey assisted others in violating U.S. tax laws for decades.”
According to the allegations contained in the indictments, other filings in this case, and statements during court proceedings, including Gaffey’s guilty plea hearing, since at least 2000 through 2018, Gaffey conspired with others to defraud the United States by concealing his clients’ assets and investments, and the income generated by those assets and investments, from the IRS through fraudulent, deceitful, and dishonest means.
During all relevant times, while acting as an accountant, Gaffey assisted U.S. taxpayers who were required to report and pay income tax on worldwide income, including income and capital gains generated in domestic and foreign bank accounts. Gaffey helped those U.S. taxpayers evade their tax reporting obligations in a variety of ways, including by hiding the beneficial ownership of his clients’ offshore shell companies and by setting up bank accounts for those shell companies. These shell companies and bank accounts made and held investments totaling tens of millions of dollars. For one U.S. taxpayer, Gaffey advised the taxpayer how to covertly repatriate approximately $3 million to the United States by reporting to the IRS a fictitious company sale to thereby evade paying the full U.S. tax amount. Gaffey was assisted in this scheme through the use of Mossack Fonseca law firm, including Ramses Owens, a Panamanian lawyer who previously worked at the Mossack Fonseca.
Gaffey was the U.S. accountant for co-defendant Harald Joachim von der Goltz. From 2000 until 2017, von der Goltz was a U.S. resident and was subject to U.S. tax laws, which required him to report and pay income tax on worldwide income. In furtherance of von der Goltz’s efforts to conceal his assets and income from the IRS, Gaffey falsely claimed that von der Goltz’s elderly mother was the sole beneficial owner of the shell companies and bank accounts at issue because, at all relevant times, she was a Guatemalan citizen and resident, and – unlike von der Goltz – was not a U.S. taxpayer. In support of this fraudulent scheme, Gaffey submitted the name, date of birth, government passport number, address, and other means of identification of von der Goltz’s elderly mother to a U.S. bank in Manhattan.
Gaffey is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Berman on June 29, 2020. Von der Goltz, who pleaded guilty on Feb. 18, 2020, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Berman on June 24, 2020.
An indictment is merely an allegation and any charged defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski praised the outstanding investigative work of IRS-Criminal Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, and thanked the Justice Department’s Tax Division and the FBI for their significant assistance in the investigation. Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski also thanked the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs as well as law enforcement partners in France, the United Kingdom and Germany for their assistance in the case.
The Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS), working in partnership with the Southern District of New York’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit and Money Laundering and Transnational Criminal Enterprises Unit are handling this case. MLARS Trial Attorneys Michael Parker and Parker Tobin, along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eun Young Choi and Thane Rehn, are in charge of the prosecution.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.