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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

New York Attorney Charged With Tax Fraud

Allegedly Did Not Report More Than $3 Million Embezzled From Deceased Client’s Estate

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Richard E. Zuckerman, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Tax Division, and James D. Robnett, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, New York Field Office (“IRS”), announced the arrest of STEVEN M. ETKIND, a New York-licensed attorney and partner at a New York law firm, for conspiring to defraud the United States, corruptly endeavoring to impede the internal revenue laws, and tax evasion.

According to the Indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:

ETKIND was the head of a New York law firm’s tax, trusts, and estates group and a Certified Public Accountant.  The indictment alleges that ETKIND performed legal work for a successful entrepreneur client, who died in 2008, naming ETKIND as the co-executor of his $35 million estate.

The client’s will directed the creation of charitable trusts, funded with assets from the client’s estate, for the sole purpose of donating to charitable organizations, including those aimed at assisting Jewish sponsored organizations.  ETKIND was named co-trustee of these trusts. 

The indictment charges that ETKIND and his co-conspirator set up a phony charitable organization and used it to steal more than $3.5 million from these charitable trusts – by first directing donations from the trusts to legitimate Jewish charitable organizations, then redirecting the funds to the phony charity accounts that ETKIND and his co-conspirator controlled.  ETKIND used part of the money he stole to purchase a 6,300-square-foot home with a swimming pool in Southampton, New York, titling it in a nominee name. 

To conceal his theft, ETKIND filed, and caused to be filed, fraudulent personal, corporate and charitable trust returns with the IRS and made several false and misleading statements to the IRS during the course of an audit and examination of the phony charity. 

If convicted, ETKIND, 57, faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge, five years on each of the tax evasion charges, and three years for obstructing the internal revenue laws.  The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman and Mr. Zuckerman praised the outstanding efforts by special agents of IRS Criminal Investigation. 

Mr. Berman also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Tax Division for their significant assistance in the investigation. 

The case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit.  Special Assistant United States Attorneys Jorge Almonte and Jack A. Morgan (of the Tax Division) are in charge of the prosecution. 

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the descriptions of the Indictment constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Tax
Press Release Number: 
18-056
Updated February 21, 2018