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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Former UBS Client Sentenced To Federal Prison For Hiding Income And Assets From IRS In Foreign Bank Accounts

ATLANTA - Gregg A. Kaminsky has been sentenced for wilfully failing to file a Foreign Bank Account Report with the U.S. Department of Treasury in connection with his concealment of income and assets in accounts in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Thailand over several years, as well as his failure to report certain income earned in the virtual world, “Second Life.”

“Federal tax revenue is crucial to protecting our borders; fighting terrorism, cybercrime, and other national security threats; providing disaster relief; and to performing other critical government functions,” said Acting U. S. Attorney John Horn.  “This office is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who intentionally avoid paying their fair share, whether their schemes involve income earned or hidden offshore, here at home, or even in a virtual world.”

“U.S. citizens who seek to avoid their tax obligations by hiding income in undeclared bank accounts abroad should by now be fully on notice that they will be held accountable for their actions, both civilly and criminally,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot. “Americans who file accurate, honest and timely returns can be assured that the government will hold accountable those who don't.”

According to Acting U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court:  Citizens and residents of the United States who have a financial interest in, or signature authority over, a financial account in a foreign country with an aggregate value of more than $10,000 at any time during a calendar year are required to file with the U.S. Department of Treasury a “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts,” commonly referred to as the “FBAR.”  The FBAR for the applicable year must be filed by June 30 of the following year.

Kaminsky is an Internet entrepreneur who serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Circlenet LLC, based in Atlanta, Georgia.  From 2000 through mid-2009, Kaminsky owned and controlled a foreign bank account with Union Bank of Switzerland AG (“UBS”), one of the biggest banks in Switzerland and largest wealth managers in the world.  By 2006, Kaminsky’s UBS account held approximately $1.1 million.  From time to time between 2002 and 2009, Kaminsky caused funds to be wire-transferred from his UBS account in Switzerland to other foreign bank accounts controlled by him in Thailand and Hong Kong.  Also during that time, Kaminsky caused his income from at least two different U.S. companies to be direct-deposited into his UBS account in Switzerland.

Yet, over this period, Kaminsky did not disclose his UBS account or other foreign financial accounts to the U. S. Treasury Department as required, and thereby concealed several hundred thousand dollars in taxable income, interest, and dividends from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In addition, in 2007 and 2008, Kaminsky omitted his UBS account and associated income from Free Applications for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that he electronically filed with the U.S. Department of Education in order to qualify for need-based federal financial aid to fund his tuition for an Executive MBA program at Emory University.  At the time of the FAFSA applications, Kaminsky controlled over a half million dollars in his UBS account, which would have made him ineligible for federal student loan assistance.

On June 30, 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice sought court approval to compel UBS to disclose the identities of U.S. account holders who may be using UBS accounts to hide assets overseas and thereby evade U.S. taxes.  The request and the order authorizing it were widely reported by the media throughout the United States, and this coverage continued throughout 2008 and 2009 as the U.S., UBS, and Switzerland negotiated a resolution and UBS began disclosing U.S. account holders to the IRS.

Following this news, Kaminsky closed his UBS account and transferred the balance of his UBS account to an account that he controlled at HSBC Bank in Hong Kong.  Further, in spring 2010, Kaminsky filed FBARs for his Swiss and Hong Kong accounts for the very first time, also filing amended individual income tax returns for 2007 and 2008 that disclosed the previously unreported income in his UBS account.  However, in his amended 2007 and 2008 returns, and in his subsequently filed returns for 2009 through 2012, Kaminsky still failed to report nearly $150,000 in taxable income earned from his business activities in the virtual world, “Second Life.” 

Participants in Second Life, referred to as “residents,” can engage in a wide variety of business activities, including buying, renting, and sub-leasing virtual land and buying and selling other virtual goods, services, and experiences for their “avatars.”  Transactions are conducted using a virtual currency, “Linden Dollars.”  Linden Dollars can be bought and traded on the “Linden Exchange,” and are redeemable for cash. 

Including his virtual world income, Kaminsky failed to report over $400,000 in income to the IRS between 2000 and 2012, resulting in a loss to the IRS of approximately $125,000.

Kaminsky, 46, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced today to serve four months in federal prison to be followed by two years of supervised release, two months of home confinement, and 200 hours of community service.  Kaminsky was also ordered to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $91,983.  Kaminsky was convicted on these charges on December 18, 2014, after he pleaded guilty.  As part of his plea agreement with the United States, Kaminsky was also required to pay a civil penalty to the IRS in the amount of $250,635.20, which is equivalent to fifty percent of the value of the balance in Kaminsky’s HSBC account in Hong Kong as of June 30, 2009.  

This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service.  Valuable assistance was also provided by Special Agents of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General.

Assistant United States Attorney David M. Chaiken prosecuted the case.

Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/
Updated April 8, 2015