“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire” is a common saying that can especially ring true in the context of tax crimes. Typically, when the federal government begins investigating one instance of potential criminal wrongdoing, there is a high probability that there is an associated tax crime to go along with it. As the story that we are highlighting today shows, government agencies often work together to investigate and prosecute crimes and if you are out of compliance with your tax obligations, any negative attention from the government could result in a criminal tax investigation and prosecution.
According to a Department of Justice press release, Joanne Murray, 54, and James Murray, 53, pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, and tax evasion. According to prosecutors, The couple took advantage of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, commonly referred to as Freddie Mac by filing fraudulent reimbursement requests through Joanne Murray’s real estate brokerage business.
The government contended that between 2010 and 2015, while Joanne Murray’s brokerage managed several properties that had been foreclosed upon, she submitted reimbursement requests for repair work and maintenance on the homes that had not actually been completed. When Freddie Mac paid out on the reimbursement claims, the brokerage paid James Murray’s maintenance company 90 percent of the funds and kept the rest as a haircut. Once the couple perfected this scheme, they are alleged to have replicated it, benefiting another relative.
As a part of the scheme, Joanne Murray would falsify “competing” bids from individuals that did not have knowledge that the scheme was occurring. Appearing to be the lowest bid on the project, Freddie Mac would award the contracts to James Murray’s company.
As a part of the investigation into the alleged fraudulent activity against Freddie Mac, federal agents learned that the couple was intentionally cashing checks from their businesses without depositing them into their personal or business bank accounts. This activity was intended to avoid IRS attempts to collect prior years’ tax debt. Furthermore, the IRS determined that in 2014, the couple’s jointly-filed individual income tax return underreported income by more than $151,000.
The Murray’s could each be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison for the count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, five years for the count of tax evasion, and each must serve at least two years for the single count of aggravated identity theft. In addition to their federal prison sentences that will be handed down later this year, a federal judge will likely sentence them each to a term of supervised release and impose monetary penalties.
As this story illustrates, government agencies do not operate within a silo. If the IRS believes that additional crimes outside of the tax realm have been committed, they will refer the case to the appropriate agency. Likewise, if you are investigated for violating a federal law not related to taxation, those performing the investigation will call in IRS investigators if they identity any badges of fraud or come across facts and circumstances relating to tax that are suspicious.
If you are out of compliance with your federal or state taxes, it is in your best interest to be proactive and attempt to rectify the situation before the IRS or any other federal authority conducts an audit or investigation. With the current presidential administration relying heavily on tax compliance to pay for the lower rates provided by the new tax law and a 24 Trillion dollar deficit, the IRS will be stepping up its efforts to enforce the tax law and ensure taxpayers are paying as required.
Although coming into compliance may seem like a daunting task, an experienced tax defense attorney can be a critical asset. At an initial consultation with your tax attorney, you can discuss your individual circumstances and come up with a plan of action. A tax attorney that is also a CPA has the technical tax knowledge needed to craft an effective strategy and the legal education to provide effective representation when dealing with the IRS or state taxing authorities. Meeting with tax authorities without the presence of a tax attorney is asking for trouble. IRS revenue agents are trained in the art of drawing out information and documentation that could potentially be used against you in the event of a criminal tax trial. The presence of a tax attorney will ensure that you do not make any statements or provide any evidence that you are not required to by law.
The tax and accounting professionals at the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing have extensive experience representing taxpayers from various walks of life who are facing a myriad of tax situations. From business owners who are facing a worker classification or sales tax audit to wage-earners who have received notice that their personal tax return will be examined, our team of zealous advocates are standing by to help develop a strategy to preserve your physical and financial freedom. Do not let the threat of an IRS or state tax audit or criminal tax investigation keep you up at night. Contact the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing today for a reduced-rate consultation.
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