Archive for the ‘Florida’ Category

“First Lady” of Tax Fraud Indicted for Fraud

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

We have a late entry for the 2012 Tax Offender of the Year. Rashia Wilson bragged on her Facebook page, something that many individuals do. But it’s what she said that likely got her in trouble. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Ms. Wilson said,

“I’m Rashia, the queen of IRS tax fraud,” Wilson said May 22 on her Facebook page, according to investigators. “I’m a millionaire for the record. So if you think that indicting me will be easy, it won’t. I promise you. I won’t do no time, dumb b——.”

She may have been correct: It took a little over six months for her to be indicted.

Technically, she hasn’t been indicted for tax fraud. The 57 counts she and her boyfriend, Maurice Larry, face include conspiracy, wire fraud, filing false tax returns, theft of government property, and aggravated identity theft. The pair are looking at very lengthy terms at ClubFed if found guilty of all charges. The government is also seeking a money judgment in the amount of $1,176,787.00; that’s how much the pair allegedly profited from their scheme.

This is not Ms. Wilson’s first brush with law enforcement. She was arrested in September on a weapons charge.

While this alleged tax fraud ring is based in Florida, it apparently may have received information on identities in California. A story in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that 931 Berkeley residents may have had their identities stolen by this ring. The Chronicle story also notes that Ms. Wilson hosted “tax fraud parties” that allegedly raised more money than drug dealing.

A hint to those who want to begin a life of crime: Don’t brag about it on Facebook. Yes, law enforcement does read the Internet.

I’m Shocked to Find That People Move from High-Tax States to Low-Tax States

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

Well, not really. This post by the Tax Foundation notes that New Yorkers are finding other states, such as Florida, far less taxing and are relocating there. The story references the New York Post; that newspaper ran a story noting that $20 billion of income migrated south.

Foundation analyst Nick Kasprak said taxes play a role in people’s decisions to relocate.

“You generally see people moving from higher-tax states to lower-tax states,” he said. “Certainly, taxes are one way that states compete with one another.”

Now, you know that, I know that, but do the people running California know that? Back in December I posted about how California has lost $48 billion of AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) from 1993 to 2008. In total, the Bronze Golden State lost just over 720,000 tax returns while losing that income. However, at the same time, California’s population increased by 5 million.

The conclusion is obvious: High income individuals have left and were replaced by low income individuals. People like me left the state and have gone to less taxing environments.

Another conclusion is equally obvious: California must make fundamental reforms to its taxation system. This is going to be horribly painful (especially if you are in a public employee union). Both the number of employees, what they do, what they’re paid, and what their benefits are, must all be cut–and cut substantially. Even the most golden of climates can turn ugly.

Another Survey, Another Bad Result for California

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Yet another survey puts California among the worst three states from a tax perspective. Alvarez & Marsal Taxand, a consulting and tax advisory firm, surveyed 800 financial executives (302 responded). Among the questions asked was Which states do you view as most competitive from a tax perspective? The usual suspects finished on the bottom: California, New York, and New Jersey. As Alvarez & Marsal Taxand noted, “…the states generally viewed as having complex tax systems and high tax rates are the three states listed (by a wide margin) as the least competitive states.” Alvaraz & Marsal Taxand Managing Director Don Roverto told the the Orange County Register, “The feedback from clients who do business in California is that it has one of the highest combinations of high rates and complex systems and that’s why it’s at the bottom.”

It’s also not a surprise which states finished at the top: Texas, Florida, and Nevada. These states all feature a tax exclusion or non-income tax based system.

Perhaps California will consider tax simplification, lowering rates, and making businesses feel wanted. Of course not–the Bronze Golden State will have one or two tax hike proposals on the November ballot.

Miccosukees Definitely in the Running for Tax Offender of the Year

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

When I last reported on the Miccosukees (a South Florida Indian tribe that runs a casino), the tribe decided to apparently ignore the advice of their then-attorney and not withhold taxes on earnings of their members. They now have been accused of not remitting taxes they withheld from patrons.

Via Taxdood comes news that the Miccosukees face a lawsuit from two patrons who played Bingo at their casino, won, and had taxes withheld from their winnings. The patrons weren’t amused when the IRS informed them that the supposedly withheld funds–withholding that appeared on their W-2Gs–didn’t make it to the IRS.

One interesting issue is whether the Miccosukees can be sued in federal court by the patrons. I suspect that the case may end up in tribal court. However, I also suspect that the IRS can cause nightmares for the Miccosukees if they aren’t remitting withheld money to the IRS.

Eight Sacked, Including Two from the NFL

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

The storefront in North Miami cashed checks. There’s nothing that unusual in that. However, there were two major differences between the storefront in Miami and most check cashing locations: The store charged very high fees (35%-45%) but didn’t ask questions about the checks that were cashed and it was operated as a sting operation by the FBI. Eight individuals, including two former NFL players, were arrested today on mostly tax related and identity theft charges.

From the DOJ Press release:

More specifically, [seven of] the defendants are charged with forgery of U.S. Treasury checks, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 510, theft of government money, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, and use of five or more identification documents with unlawful intent, in violation of Title 18, Untied States Code, Section 1028(a)(3).

The two former NFL players are William Joseph, who started his career with the New York Giants and ended his career in Oakland with the Raiders and Michael Bennett, who started his career with the Minnesota Vikings and also ended his career with the Raiders. Mr. Bennett, though, was sacked on different charges.

Mr. Bennett went to the storefront and asked for a loan, showing what purported to be $9 million of collateral in a bank account with UBS. The trouble was the balance in the account was $9 million less than what Mr. Bennett showed at the store (the account allegedly had no funds in it). Oops. Mr. Bennett has been charged with wire fraud.

Most of the defendants are accused of cashing between 11 and 35 fraudulently obtained tax refund checks. I am seeing and hearing more examples of identity theft; as noted in the DOJ press release,

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Not only is identity theft America’s fastest-growing crime, it’s also a consumer’s worst nightmare. Most recently, identity theft has become a taxpayer’s worst nightmare also. As this three month undercover operation illustrates, identity thieves are using stolen identities to commit steal tax refunds from legitimate taxpayers. Identity theft, when combined with tax refund schemes, threatens the financial security of our citizens. It is time for tax refund scammers to realize that we will not allow them to steal others’ identities and line their pockets through fraud.”

As John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Division, stated, “Without proper safeguards, identity theft tax fraud has become a growing epidemic.” Hopefully, these arrests are not the end of the FBI and DOJ actions against identity theft criminals.

News Story (Miami Herald)

Your Tax Dollars NOT at Work: 293 Ultra Low Mileage Priuses in Miami

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

My partner, Aaron, has a Toyota Prius (actually, two of them, if you count his wife’s car). I like the car a lot, and I’m certain Aaron won’t misplace his car. Aaron, though, does not manage the vehicle fleet of Miami-Dade County (Florida). That city/county managed to “misplace” 293 Toyota Priuses.

A television station in Miami, Channel 41, spent eight months investigating and found the cars in a parking garage in Miami. This news report stated the cars were “rusty.” I can’t imagine having the cars sit in a garage for four years could do them any good. An auto blog speculates that this relates to the previous Mayor, Carlos Alvarez. (He was recalled in 2011.)

The good news is that 123 (or 135) of the Priuses are now in use. That only leaves 170 (or 158) left to go!

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Heaven Can’t Wait

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

My understanding is that we can’t take it with you: Our worldly possessions won’t be with us in the hereafter. One Florida man believes he is already a resident there, and is thus exempt from trivialities such as the income tax. The results are what you might expect.

That said, if you read the terse statement from the Department of Justice you wouldn’t know of the underlying issue. The statement does note that Russell Gentile of Melbourne is accused of:

[C]orruptly tried to obstruct and impede the IRS in performing its duties by sending a series of letters claiming that he was not a taxpayer, that he was an American National but not residing in Washington, D.C., that he was not subject to the tax laws, and by threatening individual IRS officers with lawsuits against them.

Mr. Gentile is correct that he is an American but not residing in Washington, DC. What the press release doesn’t tell you is where he thinks he resides: The Kingdom of Heaven.

Of course, I could add that Mr. Gentile’s threats are an especially good way to be sure that his case is referred to Criminal Investigations. I could also add that the idea that only citizens of Washington, DC are subject to the US income tax is as useful as a $3 bill.

Mr. Gentile is looking at another hearing in February. If he continues down the road of allegedly threatening federal officials and not paying income tax, he will likely soon be residing at ClubFed.

Ignoring Tax Advice and then Suing the Attorney who Gave the Advice Isn’t Brilliant

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Let’s assume you talk to your attorney, and he advises you that you should create a reserve fund for taxes. Usually, it’s a good idea to listen to your attorney. If you don’t like his opinion, perhaps get a second opinion.

Of course, there’s also the Bozo method. The Miccosukee Tribe runs a successful casino near Miami, Florida. The tribe is exempt from taxes (it’s a sovereign nation). However, its members must pay taxes. They decided that they knew better than their attorney, and didn’t report distributions to its members or create a reserve fund in case their opinion was wrong. The Miccosukees filed a malpractice suit against their longtime attorney in a Florida court. The attorney had copies of his advice which pretty much (to this layman’s eyes) throws the malpractice case in the trash can.

Taxdood has more. Hint: The Miccosukee Tribe is the first nominee for the Bozo Tax Offender of the Year.

Finally, California Doesn’t Lead the Tax World In Something

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Officials in California sighed with relief when the recent IRS report on jailhouse tax fraud came out. In a delightful change, California finished second to Florida.

Enough with the humor. The reason I wrote this is that Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is rather upset about this. This past Friday, Senator Nelson said in a speech in Jacksonville,

I am concerned that more than eight months after Congress passed a measure to crack down on tax fraud by prison inmates at state correctional institutions, the Internal Revenue Service and Florida Department of Corrections have yet to reach an information-sharing agreement that will help state prison officials identify prisoners filing false tax returns.

While the IRS’ public response is that they are working hard on the problem, one fraud ring in a Key West jail was stopped only because, according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel, “…one of [the inmates] left a how-to note in his cell.”

Most of the time, criminals don’t stoop to that level of Bozo behavior. Senator Nelson and other Senators wrote IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman complaining about the laxness of IRS efforts in stopping this fraud. In Florida, it will be the state corrections officials who will be doing some of the stopping; soon, all envelopes containing tax returns that will be filed from Florida prisons will be stamped with a notation noting that it came from an inmate. Hopefully, the IRS will read that.

Of course, tax professionals see the IRS’ efforts in making sure that every tax professional gets a license, and that continuing education programs are under an electron microscope for their curricula. Perhaps the IRS should look at utilizing some resources on prisoner fraud as it is costing the government and taxpayers money.

Raising Taxes Can be Hazardous to Being Mayor

Friday, December 24th, 2010

The City of Miami has had financial difficulties, and faced a large budget deficit. The economy in South Florida isn’t doing well, so raising taxes would be a last resort, right?

Of course not–it’s the first choice. Mayor Carlos Alvarez proposed a 14% property tax increase, and Dade County Commissioners approved the increase (Miami and Dade County share government). Voters were not amused.

Bankrolled by automobile dealer Norman Braman, citizens forged a recall effort. This terse announcement in the New York Times notes that there will be a recall vote early in 2011. People aren’t happy about tax increases, and that’s especially true when the economy is down.

The real villain in South Florida (and in California) are wages for public employees. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. When I was growing up, public employees didn’t make a lot of money but did have generous benefits and pensions (pension relative to their salaries). Today, many (most?) public employees make better salaries than comparable employees in private industries, have better pension, and better benefits. That’s not sustainable, and there’s no way this can continue–in South Florida or in California.

Jerry Brown is basically saying the same message as Mayor Alvarez did: Either raise taxes or I’ll have to cut what the state (of California) does. There’s an alternate solution, but that’s not what his constituency wants, and that’s to cut pay and benefits for state employees.

Meanwhile, Miami also has possible corruption problems. Mayor Alvarez may not be around to see the end of this investigation, though.