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TOPGUN and Tax Fraud: Congressman Cunningham Just Finished a Prison Term for Tax Evasion

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    Randy (“Duke”) Cunningham was a U.S. House member from 1991 to 2005—a popular political figure in San Diego. After he served in the Vietnam War, Cunningham he became an instructor at the U.S. Navy’s Fighter Weapons School—literally, “TOPGUN”, as it is known by everyone else.

    In 2005, he resigned from the House after he plead guilty to accepting something in the neighborhood of $2.4 million in bribes and then committing tax evasion by under-reporting his income for 2004. He accepted certain bribes from defense contractors, agreeing to send contract to them over their competitors. Then, in 2006, he was sentenced of eight years and four months in prison—and was ordered to pay $1.8 million.

    A few days ago, KPBS ran a story on the ex-Congressman, explaining that “his lawyers told a judge their client would never survive a lengthy prison term because of his bouts with cancer, diabetes and depression.” However, he did.

    His fall was a hard one. While imprisoned, he performed yard work, served food, and cleaned… all at 40 cents an hour.

    Why do politicians resign after a conviction or pleading guilty? Well, for practical reasons, they must. Their Congressional powers shrink very quickly—for the House rules do not permit a member convicted of a felony to participate in the political process. Rule XXIII of the Code of Official Conduct provides, in relevant part:

    10. A Member, Delegate, or Resident Commissioner who has been convicted by a court of record for the commission of a crime for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed should refrain from participation in the business of each committee of which such individual is a member, and a Member should refrain from voting on any question at a meeting of the House or of the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, unless or until judicial or executive proceedings result in reinstatement of the presumption of the innocence of such Member or until the Member is reelected to the House after the date of such conviction.

    Duke Cunningham explained that he wished he had never pleaded guilty. For whatever reason, he felt pressured into doing so.

    If you have found yourself in tax trouble with the IRS like Duke, we can help. Because of the specialized nature of criminal tax law, few attorneys are competent to handle this sort of tax controversy. However, the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing can help you navigate through your legal options. As IRS tax lawyers, our office provides vigorous representation for individuals and businesses accused of tax fraud.


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