April 15 -- the deadline for filing income-tax returns -- is just two days away. And in case your stress over that fact isn't already overwhelming, the U.S. Attorney's Office has a message: "It is important to file complete and accurate tax returns and those who deliberately evade this obligation will be criminal prosecuted."
To underscore the point (as if the comment above hadn't already done the trick), the USAO accompanies this warning/threat with tales of four tax cases that have resulted in indictments, convictions or some variation thereof since the beginning of the month, plus a fifth that led to guilty pleas in February. Most of them go far beyond gray-area issues -- like, for instance, "I'm putting this down as a business lunch even though I ate a microwave burrito by myself." But the figures in at least one of them hover around the $20,000 range, suggesting that you don't need to be Bernie Madoff to get U.S. Attorney David Gaouette's attention.
Look below to give yourself incentive to dig out that calculator...
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THE PROSECUTION OF TAX CASES CONTINUES AS APRIL 15 DEADLINE APPROACHES
DENVER -- United States Attorney David Gaouette and IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Christopher Sigerson announced today the prosecution of several criminal tax offenders in the District of Colorado. With the tax deadline for filing tax returns this week, federal officials remind citizens that it is important to file complete and accurate tax returns and those who deliberately evade this obligation will be criminal prosecuted.
Recent tax cases prosecuted in the District of Colorado include the following:
* John C. Walshe, age 64, of Denver, Colorado, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver on April 5, 2010, on charges of failure to pay taxes and theft from a employee benefit plan. According to the Indictment, Walshe was the owner and principal officer of Finzer Business Systems of Colorado, Inc. d/b/a Finzer Imaging Systems ("Finzer") located in Denver, Colorado. During the period for quarters ending June 30, 2005, through December 31, 2007, Walshe deducted and collected from the taxable wages of the Finzer employees, federal income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes totaling over $912,286. Walshe willfully failed to pay the Internal Revenue Service the $912,286 in federal income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes withheld from the paychecks of Finzer employees. Failure to pay taxes carries a penalty of not more than 5 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine, per count.
* Darrell Stoffels, age 59, of Castle Rock, Colorado, had his initial appearance on April 8, 2010, were he was advised of the charges pending against him. Stoffels was charged on March 19, 2010, by Information, with failure to file tax returns. According to the Information, during the calendar years 2003, 2004, and 2005, Stoffels, who was a resident of Colorado, had and received gross income of approximately $281,838 for the above stated years. Stoffels failed to file income tax returns with the IRS for those years, citing specifically his gross income and any deductions and credits to which he was entitled. Stoffels was required by law to file income tax returns with the IRS, following the close of each calendar year on or before April 15 of the following year. Failure to file income tax returns carries a penalty of not more than 1 year imprisonment, and a fine of up to $25,000 per count.
* Terri Lynn Lucero, age 50, of Alamosa, Colorado, on April 8, 2010 pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false tax return. Lucero was indicted on December 1, 2009. According to the Indictment and plea agreement, during the period under investigation Lucero was an employee at the Housing Authority of the City of Alamosa. Between August 17, 2001, and October 13, 2004, the defendant prepared or caused to be prepared ninety-six checks payable to Steve Lucero, all drawn on the housing authority's account at Alamosa National Bank. Some of the checks were payments for the work that the defendant and Steve Lucero did, but most represented money that the defendant embezzled. The total amount of the checks was $168,949. All of the money was income regardless of whether it was earned or embezzled. All of the money should have been reported, but was not reported, on Terri and Steve Lucero's joint Form 1040 U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns for the years 2001 through 2004. The defendant signed each of the returns, and each return was verified by a written declaration that it was made under the penalties of perjury. Filing a false income tax return carries a penalty of not more than 3 year imprisonment, and a fine of up to $100,000 per count.
* Steven Dehaven, age 25, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was charged by Information on April 9, 2010, for aiding and assisting in preparing a false tax return. According to the Information, on or about April 12, 2005, Dehaven did willfully aid and assist in, and procure, counsel, and advise the preparation and presentation to the Internal Revenue Service, of a 2004 U.S. Individual Form 1040 Income Tax Return in the names of Joseph J. and Lynn C. Chesla, which were false and fraudulent as to material matters, in that the return falsely stated in Schedule A that Joseph J. and Lynn C. Chesla made charitable contributions of $4,288 and incurred un-reimbursed employee business expenses of $16,745 and falsely stated in Schedule D that Joseph J. and Lynn C. Chesla incurred non-business bad debt of $3,000, when, as the defendant well knew, the taxpayers did not make the charitable contributions and did not incur the un-reimbursed employee business expenses listed in Schedule A and did not incur the non-business bad debt listed in Schedule D. Aiding and assisting in preparing a false tax return carries a penalty of not more than 3 years imprisonment, and a fine of up to $250,000 per count.
* Lance Wheeler, age 43, and Lisa Wheeler, age 41, a husband and wife from Elizabeth, Colorado, on February 4, 2010, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. Lance and Lisa Wheeler where charged by an Information on January 21, 2010, where they waived their right to be indicted by a federal grand jury. According to the Information charging the Wheelers, during tax years 2001 through 2004, Lance Wheeler was a plumber who owned his own plumbing business, Assurance Plumbing and Heating, LLC ("Assurance") in Elizabeth, Colorado. His wife Lisa Wheeler acted as the bookkeeper for Assurance. In October 2000, Lance and Lisa Wheeler became clients of Innovative Financial Consultants ("IFC"), which publically promoted and sold an abusive tax scheme. The Wheelers purchased and used this Tax Scheme and failed to report $305,375 in income for the tax years 2001 through 2004, resulting in $60,621 in additional tax due and owing to the IRS. Lance and Lisa Wheeler claimed to be merely "managers" of Assurance with no ownership interest. Additionally, Lance and Lisa Wheeler did not file any U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns (Forms 1040) or report to the IRS any income for the tax years 2001-2004. In reality, Lance and Lisa Wheeler were the owners of Assurance, and they received all of Assurance's profits. Lance and Lisa Wheeler are scheduled to be sentenced on April 23, 2010. Conspiracy carries a penalty of not more than 5 years in federal prison, and up to a $250,000 fine.
"The deadline to file taxes is almost here, and it is important for people to remember their obligation to file true and accurate tax returns on time," said U.S. Attorney David Gaouette.
"During this current economic climate, it is imperative for all Americans to pay their share of taxes, those who deliberately attempt to pass their obligation onto the honest taxpaying Americans through acts of evasion will find themselves subject to criminal investigation and prosecution," said Christopher M. Sigerson, Special Agent in Charge for IRS Criminal Investigation.
Charges in an indictment and information are merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
The criminal cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Suneeta Hazra, Pegeen D. Rhyne, and Matthew T. Kirsch of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Colorado.