On Monday, June 4, 2018, a federal jury returned a guilty verdict in the case of 51-year-old Saratoga, CA resident Jyh-Chau “Henry” Horng, convicting the defendant on one count of making false statements to an IRS agent, in addition to two counts of filing a false tax return. Horng’s spouse, Meili “Ally” Lin, was likewise charged with two counts of tax fraud. However, unlike her husband, Lin was acquitted (found not guilty) on one count, with the jury unable to reach a unanimous verdict regarding the other charge. Though Lin has narrowly avoided conviction and penalization, at least for the time being, Horng is facing serious legal consequences: a prison sentence of up to five years for lying to the Internal Revenue Service, in addition to a maximum three-year sentence for each count of filing a false return. In addition, Horng may be ordered to pay criminal fines, pay IRS restitution, and undergo a period of supervised release after completing his sentence.
Horng and Lin’s legal troubles began in January 2015, when both spouses were indicted, or formally charged, on multiple counts of filing a false federal income tax return, a felony tax crime prohibited by 26 U.S. Code § 7206(1) (pertaining to fraud and false statements, declaration under penalties of perjury). During the same period, prosecutors filed additional charges against each spouse individually, including the following:
Significantly, the press release goes on to note that Horng – who, while residing in California, owned an international trading company – also told auditors “that the couple had no foreign bank accounts.” What the press release (which makes no further reference to this seemingly minor detail) does not explain is that a taxpayer’s willful failure to disclose foreign financial accounts violates the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) – which, depending on the value of such accounts, requires most foreign account holders to report offshore funds to the IRS using an electronic document called the Foreign Bank Account Report, or FBAR (less commonly known as “FinCEN Form 114”). To learn more about FBAR filing requirements – and the FBAR penalties for noncompliance – our FBAR attorneys would encourage you to explore our overview of FBAR reporting.
With regard to the two false returns, which were filed for tax years 2006 and 2007, Horng both (1) underreported the couple’s level of income, and (2) claimed financial losses exceeding $212,000. In reality, Horng and Lin not only “purchased millions of dollars of real estate,” but further, “invested over $5 million into a… shopping center, and spent over $350,000 using credit cards” during the same period in which they claimed to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It took approximately four weeks for the trial to conclude and the jury to reach its verdict. As of June 2018, the DOJ was reporting that Horng’s sentencing hearing was yet to be scheduled. Though the DOJ has yet to release an update on the case, what is certain is that Horng risks years of imprisonment.
It is also common for sentencing judges to order supervised release and IRS restitution in cases of this nature. Supervised release typically lasts for a period of at least one year – often longer – while IRS restitution can climb into the hundred-thousands or even millions, depending on the size of the government’s tax loss resulting from the crime. (As the IRS explains in Internal Revenue Manual 25.26.1, Criminal Restitution and Restitution-Based Assessments, “The amount of… restitution ordered by the court is calculated from evidence submitted at trial or… information contained in the [defendant’s] plea agreement and presented… at sentencing.”)
Underreporting income, exaggerating losses, lying during IRS tax audits, and failing to report foreign bank accounts all constitute major violations of the U.S. Tax Code, or Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Engaging in even one of these practices places you at risk of prosecution, incarceration, and/or financial penalties.
If you are concerned about the information you provided on a previous year’s tax return, need state or federal tax audit representation, or have questions about the proper procedures for disclosing your foreign assets to the IRS, the Tax Law Office of David W. Klasing can provide the nuanced strategic guidance you require. Serving taxpayers and businesses throughout Northern and Southern California, our award-winning tax team features tax audit attorneys, criminal tax defense lawyers, and international tax attorneys with decades of combined experience, enabling us to efficiently resolve a wide array of civil and criminal tax issues in California and beyond. To discuss your tax question in a reduced-rate consultation, contact the Tax Law Office of David W. Klasing online, or call (800) 681-1295 to get started.
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