Manhattan Tax Attorney Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For Participation In Multimillion-Dollar Tax Evasion Scheme And Lying To The IRS
Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that HAROLD LEVINE, a Manhattan tax attorney, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff to 24 months in prison for tax evasion and obstruction of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), stemming from his scheme to siphon millions of dollars of tax shelter fee income from the law firm at which he worked and failing to report the diverted fees as income. LEVINE’s scheme also involved making false statements to IRS auditors, and urging a witness to provide false testimony to the same IRS auditors who were investigating LEVINE’s receipt of the fees.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “Harold Levine stole first from his law firm partners and then from American taxpayers by filing tax returns that left out millions of dollars of income. As if tax evasion by a tax attorney were not bad enough, Levine tried to get out of it by lying to the IRS during an audit and urging a witness to give false testimony. Levine’s jail sentence should serve as a reminder that everyone – including tax lawyers – must be truthful in reporting their income, and deal honestly with, the tax authorities.”
According to the Indictment, LEVINE’s guilty plea, and statements made during the plea proceedings and other court proceedings:
Between 2004 and 2012, LEVINE, a tax attorney and former head of the tax department at a major Manhattan Law Firm (the “Law Firm”), schemed with co-defendant Ronald Katz, a certified public accountant, to obstruct and impede the due administration of the Internal Revenue laws by evading income taxes on millions of dollars of fee income generated from tax shelter and related transactions that LEVINE worked on while a partner of the Law Firm. Specifically, LEVINE failed to report approximately $3 million in income to the IRS on his personal tax returns during the period 2005-2011. Most of the fee income LEVINE failed to report was routed by him through a limited liability company LEVINE controlled, which was nominally owned by a family member.
As part of the scheme, for example, LEVINE caused tax shelter fees paid by a Law Firm client to be routed from the Law Firm’s escrow account to a partnership entity he co-owned with Katz and thereafter used those fees – totaling approximately $500,000 – to purchase a home in Levittown, on Long Island. LEVINE caused the home to be purchased as a residence for a Law Firm employee (the “Law Firm Employee”) with whom he then enjoyed a close personal relationship. Although LEVINE allowed the Law Firm Employee to reside in the Levittown house for over five years without paying rent, LEVINE and Katz prepared tax returns for the entity through which the home was purchased that claimed false deductions as a rental property.
In February 2013, LEVINE was questioned by IRS agents concerning his involvement in certain tax shelter transactions and the fees received by LEVINE from those transactions. During that questioning, LEVINE falsely told the IRS that the Law Firm Employee paid him $1,000 per month in rent while living in the Levittown home. In addition, when the Law Firm Employee was contacted by the IRS and summoned to appear for testimony, LEVINE urged the employee to falsely tell the IRS that she had paid $1,000 per month in rent to LEVINE.
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In imposing sentence today, Judge Rakoff said, “There was no one in the world who knew better that he was committing a crime than Harold Levine.”
In addition to the 24-month prison sentence, LEVINE, 59, of New York, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution to the IRS in an amount to be determined at a hearing on November 13, 2017.
Co-defendant Ronald Katz, who also pled guilty in June 2017, is scheduled to be sentenced on November 13, 2017.
Mr. Kim thanked the IRS for its assistance in this investigation and praised the outstanding investigative work of both IRS-CI and IRS Civil – Large Business & International.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Special Assistant United States Attorney Stanley J. Okula and Assistant United States Attorney Daniel S. Noble are in charge of the prosecution.