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Can a CPA be charged with conspiracy?

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    Yes, usually tax related conspiracies are charged under the general conspiracy statute and arises where two or more people conspire either to commit an offense against the United States, or defraud the United States or any agency thereof. Conspiracy is chargeable as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on whether the underlying criminal objective of the conspiracy is punishable as a felony or as a misdemeanor. If the underlying criminal objective of the conspiracy is a felony, conviction for conspiracy is punishable by imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000. If the underlying criminal objective of the conspiracy is punishable as a misdemeanor, conviction for conspiracy is punishable to the same extent as is the underlying misdemeanor criminal objective. In both felony and misdemeanor cases, greater fines may be imposed under the alternative maximum fine provisions.

    The IRS has brought conspiracy charges concerning attempts to impede and/or impair the IRS in the lawful assessment or collection of revenue as a weapon in complex tax prosecutions typically involving corporations, abusive tax shelters and money laundering schemes. To be found guilty of conspiracy the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

    • Two or more persons made an agreement
    • The substance of the agreement was to commit an offense against the United States or to defraud the United States, and
    • One or more of the conspirators committed an overt act in furtherance of the agreement.

    A six-year statute of limitations applies to offenses arising under the conspiracy provisions of the Federal Code.

    The essence of the crime of conspiracy is the agreement, therefore the success of the conspiracy is irrelevant. The agreement does not need to be reduced to a formal expression or memorialized in writing. A tacit understanding between two people acting in concert to achieve a common criminal purpose has been deemed sufficient to uphold a conviction. Moreover, a defendant cannot conspire with him or herself therefore the government has the burden of showing that an agreement was reached with at least one other person. Consequently, a corporation, as a legal person, can be found guilty of conspiracy with its directors, officers, or employees and courts have even held that a husband and wife may also be found guilty of conspiring together against the United States. The underlying substantive offense and the conspiracy to commit that offense are two separate and distinct offenses. Thus, a person may be charged with both the commission of the underlying offense and with conspiracy to commit the underlying offense.

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