Former HSI Special Agent Sentenced to More Than Six Years in Prison on Tax, Structuring, and Concealment Charges
CHICAGO — A Chicago-based scrap iron refining business and its president admitted in federal court today that they concealed from the Internal Revenue Service more than $11.6 million in cash wages paid to employees.
ACME REFINING CO., which does business as Acme Refining Scrap Iron & Metal Co., and its president, LAURENCE C. BARON, each pleaded guilty to impairing and impeding the IRS. Acme and Baron admitted in plea agreements that from 2009 to 2013 they paid cash wages of more than $11.6 million to at least 50 employees, but failed to report the payments to the IRS. Acme and Baron also acknowledged that they willfully failed to withhold for the government the required amounts for FICA taxes and Medicare.
As part of their plea agreements, Baron and Acme agreed to pay restitution of $5,878,327 to the IRS and the state of Illinois, with Acme paying $4,545,243 and Baron paying $1,333,084.
The guilty pleas were announced by Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Gabriel L. Grchan, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago.
Impairing and impeding the IRS is punishable by up to three years in prison. Baron, 70, of Burr Ridge, also pleaded guilty to a separate count of willfully filing a false individual income tax return, which carries the same maximum penalty. U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber set sentencing for Sept. 14, 2017.
The cases against Acme and Baron are part an ongoing federal investigation of cash transactions in the Chicago-area scrap metal industry that has resulted in several previous convictions.
According to the plea agreements, Baron directed Acme employees to issue multiple vouchers for cash payments due to suppliers that exceeded $10,000, using nominee or fictitious payees as the purported seller. Between 2009 and 2013 the company and Baron obtained approximately $152 million in cash from two currency exchanges, then used the money to pay 85 separate scrap metal suppliers in order to assist those suppliers in underreporting their income and taxes.
Acme – at the direction of Baron – also spent at least $1.6 million to fund construction of a personal residence in Wisconsin that had no business-related purpose, the plea agreements state. The company falsely recorded this expenditure as “cost of goods sold,” in order to reduce Acme’s tax liability and conceal the payment on behalf of its corporate officers. The bogus records included phony invoices that fraudulently identified the payments as purchases of scrap steel.
Baron also admitted filing false individual income tax returns for tax years 2011 and 2012. The fraudulent returns resulted in a total federal and state tax loss of approximately $208,875, the plea agreement states.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick King.