Three More Professionals Indicted in $1 Billion Tax Shelter Scheme
A second attorney and two tax professionals have been indicted in the $1 billion Garza tax shelter scheme, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham and Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division Stuart Goldberg.
Attorney and CPA Kevin McDonnell and CPA James Richardson, co-owners of tax preparation and accounting firm McDonnell Richardson, P.C., were added to the case in a superseding indictment filed Tuesday. The pair are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and five counts of assisting in the preparations of fraudulent tax returns. Craig Fenton, a tax manager at McDonnell Richardson, was indicted on the same charges.
The alleged mastermind of the scheme, attorney Joseph Garza, was previously indicted on 18 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and 22 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of fraudulent income tax returns. The superseding indictment added a charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
According to the court documents, Mr. Garza allegedly directed his clientele to use hand-picked tax professionals – including Mr. McDonnell, Mr. Richardson, and Mr. Fenton – who helped him illegally shelter their otherwise taxable income. Mr. Garza allegedly charged clients a percentage of the predetermined amount of money they had chosen to shelter from taxes; Mr. McDonnell, Mr. Richardson, and Mr. Fenton were compensated for their roles in the scheme as well.
The defendants allegedly created multiple shell companies – including shell “services” companies and shell “investments” companies – to create a circular flow of funds to help clients avoid paying taxes.
These shell companies purported to provide services to the clients’ businesses or to serve as family investment vehicles, but actually had no legitimate purpose other than to move money. The defendants allegedly created sham operating agreements and service agreements, fictious invoices, and false private annuity agreements designed to give the companies the appearance of legitimacy and conceal the scheme from the IRS.
The defendants then allegedly assisted clients in the preparation and filing of fraudulent tax returns, falsely deducting businesses expenses for services that were never performed, falsely reporting gross receipts for payments that were not earned, falsely deducting payments from the investment company to the taxpayer for annuities that didn’t exist, and underreporting the individual taxpayers’ incomes.
The scheme allegedly resulted in more than $1 billion in unreported income and more than $200 million in unpaid taxes.
“Kevin McDonnell, James Richardson, and Craig Fenton participated in a tax scheme that resulted in $1 billion in unreported income and more than $200 million in unpaid taxes. Now they face severe consequences, including jail time and substantial fines,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher J. Altemus, Jr, IRS - Criminal Investigation, Dallas Field Office. “Today's indictments reinforce our commitment to every American taxpayer that the dedicated women and men of IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to work tirelessly to identify and prosecute tax professionals who devise illegal tax shelters to evade the tax obligations of their wealthy clients."
An indictment is merely an allegation of criminal conduct, not evidence. All four defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 5 years in federal prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States, 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and up to three years in prison for each count of aiding and assisting in the filing of false federal income tax returns. Mr. Garza also faces up to 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud.
IRS – Criminal Investigations’ Dallas Field Division conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Renee Hunter, Katherine Miller, and Marty Basu of the Northern District of Texas are prosecuting the case with Trial Attorney Robert Kemins of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.