Posts Tagged ‘TaxOffenderOfTheYear’

2015 Tax Offender of the Year

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Once more it’s time to award that prestigious award, the 2015 Tax Offender of the Year. The winner of this award must do more than just cheat on his or her taxes. It has to be special; it really needs to be a Bozo-like action or actions. Unfortunately, there were plenty of nominations.

Dissatisfied with only winning the Tax Offender of the Year award once, the US Congress made a strong push for the award. However, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory (which is a good thing; this award really isn’t something to brag about). Just two weeks ago they passed both a budget and tax “extender” legislation, and even codified the Enrolled Agent profession as part of the legislation. That last item eliminated Congress from the running.

The Miccosukee tribe was in the running again. They’ve fought a quixotic battle against the IRS, alleging that their members are exempt from US taxation on their income from a casino. The tribe has been fighting the IRS in court (and losing, time after time). Most recently, the Tax Court ruled that an IRS levy wasn’t an abuse of discretion.

However, that’s not the most recent ruling against the tribe. Just last week the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the tribe. The tribe had appealed a dismissal of a lawsuit against former tribal officials, attorneys, a law firm, and an investment firm:

Applying the Rule 9(b) standard to the present complaint, we note that the district court previously afforded the Tribe the opportunity to amend its complaint to add particularity. In doing so, the Tribe submitted a 314-page second amended complaint which, at first blush, appears to contain particularity…The complaint’s 314 pages, therefore, appear largely to be an attempt to create the impression of specificity through page-number “shock and awe.”

Let’s just say that the Court was neither shocked nor awed:

The deficiency of the pleadings exists at a more fundamental level. Looking first at the allegations concerning the attorney defendants, the complaint suffers from a wholesale lack of detail to satisfy the plausibility standard of Iqbal and Twombly or the heightened requirements of Rule 9(b)…No attempt is made, however, to articulate what services were deemed legitimate and proper, what services comprised part of the alleged fraudulent scheme, and what rates were inflated…There is, therefore, insufficient specificity to distinguish between what attorney matters the Tribe deems to have been legitimate and what the Tribe deems to have been illegitimate. Finally, the Tribe alleges a kickback scheme in which the attorneys received payment and refunded money to Cypress, but there are no factual references to support these allegations. [foonote omitted]

The decision of the lower court was affirmed. And, yes, there’s worse to come.

Our final runner up was IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. While I applaud the lead he appears to now be taking on identity theft, Commissioner Koskinen’s reaction to the IRS scandal has been ridiculous. I agree with Joe Kristan’s comment earlier this year:

His glib, arrogant and obstructionist response to the Tea Party scandal, full of denials of the existence of information that subsequently surfaced, has destroyed his credibility. There’s no hope that the IRS will get improved funding as long as he is around to spend it.

Yet Mr. Koskinen’s bad leadership pales to the amazing tale I’m about to tell.


Stillwater, Minnesota is like many small cities in the midwest. It’s a popular day trip for residents of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul), and it’s largest industry appears to be tourism.

In 2006, Kenneth Harycki owned Customized Payroll Solutions in Stillwater and was its mayor. He was a CPA and had a nice business. He took on new clients in 2007, Thurlee and Roylee Belfrey (brothers) who ran some home health care businesses. So far, nothing out of the ordinary.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Harycki, the Belfreys allegedly ran their business as their own personal piggy bank. That supposedly including defrauding the US Department of Health and Human Services and skimming off payroll tax deposits. Mr. Harycki discovered this after he took the Belfreys on as clients:

Within the first few payroll cycles for Model Health Care, Harycki “concluded that while payroll taxes were being withheld from the wages of employees, those taxes were not being paid over to the government,” according to his guilty plea.

Now, when I discover a defalcation against a client I will, of course, report it to them. If I discover a client is committing payroll tax fraud (thankfully, I’ve never had this happen), I’m required to tell them to stop, and to drop them as a client. Mr. Harycki, a CPA, certainly understood the ethical requirements of his profession.

Well, maybe not.

Mr. Harycki had other ideas of what to do. Back in January when I first reported on this, I gave the three choices that could have been considered:

(a) Tell them that the taxes aren’t being paid, that’s violating the law, and you need to fix this (which could include setting up payment plans with the IRS and Minnesota, or just paying the withheld funds);
(b) Tell them that if they don’t start remitting the withheld funds that he would need to quit the engagement; or
(c) Join the conspiracy.

Yes, Mr. Harycki decided to join the conspiracy. And boy did he do so!

According to the defendant’s guilty plea, on February 18, 2010, HARYCKI created the entity MKH Holdings, Inc., to assume control over bank accounts used to fund businesses operated by the co-conspirators. The entity was used to cause funds falsely reported on income tax returns to be paid to the co-conspirators and others. During the course of the conspiracy, HARYCKI also incorporated other businesses, obtained employer identification numbers, paid for personal expenses, filed false tax returns, and opened and used numerous bank accounts for the benefit of the separately charged co-conspirators in order to avoid payment of taxes.

There’s not much to add here. Mr. Harycki should have, once he discovered the fraud, told them of the law violations and quit the engagement. The only good that is coming from this is that Mr. Harycki appears to be cooperating with the Department of Justice in the cases against the Belfreys (who are now also facing a tax fraud charge).


That’s a wrap on 2015! While I’m hopeful that 2016 will find me bereft of candidates for the Tax Offender of the Year award, I suspect my cup will again run over.

I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Last Chance for Nominees for 2015 Tax Offender of the Year

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

In just four days (December 31st) I’ll be announcing this year’s winner of the prestigious “Tax Offender of the Year” award. Remember, To be considered for the Tax Offender of the Year award, the individual (or organization) must do more than cheat on his or her taxes. It has to be special; it really needs to be a Bozo-like action or actions. Here are the past lucky recipients:

2014: Mauricio Warner
2013: U.S. Department of Justice
2012: Steven Martinez
2011: United States Congress
2010: Tony and Micaela Dutson
2009: Mark Anderson
2008: Robert Beale
2007: Gene Haas
2005: Sharon Lee Caulder

Nominations Due for 2015 Tax Offender of the Year

Monday, November 30th, 2015

With just about one month left in 2015, it’s time for a reminder to submit nominations for the 2015 Tax Offender of the Year. To be considered for the Tax Offender of the Year award, the individual (or organization) must do more than cheat on his or her taxes. It has to be special; it really needs to be a Bozo-like action or actions. Here are the past lucky recipients:

2014: Mauricio Warner
2013: U.S. Department of Justice
2012: Steven Martinez
2011: United States Congress
2010: Tony and Micaela Dutson
2009: Mark Anderson
2008: Robert Beale
2007: Gene Haas
2005: Sharon Lee Caulder

Former Mayor (and Current CPA) Learns of Tax Fraud, Joins the Conspiracy

Friday, January 16th, 2015

This is for the don’t do this at home file for tax professionals. Kenneth Harycki is the former mayor of Stillwater, Minnesota. He’s also a licensed CPA in Minnesota (but probably not for much longer). Mr. Harycki will provide an interesting lesson the next time I teach ethics.

Mr. Harycki provided accounting, tax, payroll, and bookkeeping services to clients. Back in 2007, he provided services to Model Health Care. From the Department of Justice press release:

Within the first few payroll cycles for Model Health Care (Model), a company controlled by the two separately charged co-conspirators, the defendant concluded that while payroll taxes were being withheld from the wages of employees, those taxes were not being paid over to the government. The defendant learned that these co-conspirators had directed that the withheld taxes not be paid to the government and, instead, the taxes would be used for other purposes, including compensating the co-conspirators and their family members and funding other businesses operated by the co-conspirators.

Now, let’s assume you’re a tax professional and you learn that a company is withholding payroll taxes and not paying them to the IRS. Would you:
(a) Tell them that the taxes aren’t being paid, that’s violating the law, and you need to fix this (which could include setting up payment plans with the IRS and Minnesota, or just paying the withheld funds);
(b) Tell them that if they don’t start remitting the withheld funds that he would need to quit the engagement; or
(c) Join the conspiracy.

Choice (c) is not one that most of us would consider. It is, though, the one that Mr. Harycki not only considered but did:

According to the defendant’s guilty plea, on February 18, 2010, HARYCKI created the entity MKH Holdings, Inc., to assume control over bank accounts used to fund businesses operated by the co-conspirators. The entity was used to cause funds falsely reported on income tax returns to be paid to the co-conspirators and others. During the course of the conspiracy, HARYCKI also incorporated other businesses, obtained employer identification numbers, paid for personal expenses, filed false tax returns, and opened and used numerous bank accounts for the benefit of the separately charged co-conspirators in order to avoid payment of taxes.

Given that the tax loss is between $1 million and $2.5 million, Mr. Harycki will be heading to ClubFed.

There’s not much to add to the press release. If I discover a defalcation while preparing a return, it’s my responsibility to tell the client. And if my client tells me he’s going to continue the actions, I’m required to quit the engagement. I’ve had to do this once in my career; if I discovered such a fraud I’d make the easy decision to get out the engagement. Apparently Mr. Harycki’s ethics were a bit different than most CPAs and EAs. My. Harycki has received a nomination for the 2015 Tax Offender of the Year, though.

2014 Tax Offender of the Year

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

It’s time again for that most prestigious of prestigious awards, the 2014 Tax Offender of the Year. The winner of this award must do more than just cheat on his or her taxes. It has to be special; it really needs to be a Bozo-like action or actions. Once again, there were plenty of nominees.

The Miccosukee tribe is still having its battles with the IRS. The tribe is exempt from taxes but its members are not. The tribe has refused to send financial documents to the IRS. The tribe appealed the most recent order that they do provide the data; a ruling is expected soon from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the tribe loses this round, the battle will likely be over.

Another nominee was John Koskinen. If that name sounds familiar to you, it should; he’s the IRS Commissioner. Mr. Koskinen testified to Congress that, “I’ve tried to tell you the truth every time I’ve been here.” I had a simple question for Mr. Koskinen: Why doesn’t that quote read I’ve told you the truth every time I’ve been here? The obfuscation by the IRS on the current scandal has led directly to the IRS’s budget being cut.

Charles Waldo received a nomination for allegedly emulating Steven Martinez. (Mr. Martinez won the 2012 Tax Offender of the Year award for hiring a hit man to eliminate witnesses against him in a tax fraud case.) Mr. Waldo was arrested on a 50-count indictment for insurance fraud, tax evasion, felony vandalism, and a high speed chase in California. While awaiting trial, Mr. Waldo allegedly hired a hit man to kill witnesses against him. He’s had ten additional counts added to his indictment. At this point, though, these are just allegations; we’ll have to wait until 2015 to see if Mr. Waldo can truly be nominated.

Finally, Rashia Wilson received a nomination. Ms. Wilson received 21 years at ClubFed for tax fraud. Now, she was indicted in 2012 and convicted in 2013. For those who don’t remember her, there’s this from the Tampa Bay Times:

“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——.”

Ms. Wilson also posted this wonderful picture:

Rashia Wilson (Image Credit: Tampa Police Department)

In any case, Ms. Wilson, who now resides at a federal prison in Aliceville, Alabama, was ordered to pay $25 each quarter toward the $3.1 million in restitution she owes the IRS. She has asked a US District Court to suspend the payments because she is only making $5.25 each month and must buy vitamins and hygiene items. Ms. Wilson is a reminder to all that bragging about illegal activities on Facebook isn’t a brilliant idea.


Back in 2012 I wrote a post titled, “A Modest Proposal on Tax-Related Identity Theft.” The IRS admits that this is a huge issue. Unfortunately, the IRS is still mostly reactive rather than proactive on this front.

This year, I’ve decided to spotlight an identity thief as the Tax Offender of the Year. I deliberately chose this kind of tax offense because, as the IRS states, “We know identity theft is a frustrating process for victims.” I don’t know of any tax professional with a large practice who hasn’t seen a case of identity theft. My business partner’s late stepfather was a victim of identity theft when his social security number was published on the Social Security Death Index.

Identity theft causes trauma in a victim’s life, and this trauma can last years. The problems can be psychological and actual, impacting the mundane (purchasing), filing a tax return, buying property, and a victim’s self-esteem.

I had literally hundreds of identity thieves to choose from. I naturally chose someone who committed a huge fraud, and whose actions were egregious. For the record, a Google search of the Justice Department’s website looking for “identity theft” for just December 2014 found about 140 entries.

From Smyrna, Georgia comes the story of Mauricio Warner. Mr. Warner told individuals that you could receive a “stimulus payment” or “Free Government Money.” Instead, the over 5,000 victims had a tax return filed in their names. The tax returns contained false income amounts and refundable tax credits to generate the erroneous refunds. Of course, the refunds were direct deposited into bank accounts that Mr. Warner controlled.

Mr. Warner was indicted in April, 2013. He was accused of 16 counts of wire fraud, 16 counts of aggravated identity theft, 16 counts of filing false claims, and two counts of money laundering. He was tried earlier this year, and found guilty of all the charges. He was sentenced to 20 years at ClubFed and was ordered to make restitution of $5,041,869. Partial restitution has already occurred; the court ordered forfeiture of seven bank accounts that contained $4,185,455.31. (While there have been abuses of forfeiture, this is a case where it appears to be amply justified.) For the record, Mr. Warner has filed an appeal.

While the IRS continues to spend money on its quixotic goal of regulating all tax professionals, the plague of identity theft continues. Yes, the IRS is making strides and has implemented some ideas that will stop some of this scourge. But priorities at the IRS seem a little off to me: All of the money being directed into the IRS’s Annual Filing Season Program could be redirected into fighting identity theft.


One year I’m hopeful that I’ll write, “I could not find a deserving candidate for the Tax Offender of the Year.” Unfortunately, I suspect that I’ll have plenty to choose from in 2015, too.

That’s a wrap on 2014. I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and safe New Year.

Nominations Due for 2014 Tax Offender of the Year

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

With just about one week prior to the end of 2014, it’s time for a final reminder to submit nominations for the Tax Offender of the Year. To be considered for the Tax Offender of the Year award, the individual (or organization) must do more than cheat on his or her taxes. It has to be special; it really needs to be a Bozo-like action or actions. Here are the past lucky recipients:

2013: U.S. Department of Justice
2012: Steven Martinez
2011: United States Congress
2010: Tony and Micaela Dutson
2009: Mark Anderson
2008: Robert Beale
2007: Gene Haas
2005: Sharon Lee Caulder

Copying Steven Martinez’s Idea Is Not a Good Choice

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

I’m on the road this weekend, but a story from the San Francisco Bay Area caught my eye. Charles Waldo was already in jail. He was arrested on a 50-count indictment for insurance fraud, tax evasion, felony vandalism, and a high speed chase through central Costa Contra County. While awaiting trial, Mr. Waldo was in the Martinez, California jail.

When you’re in prison you do have time on your hands to determine your defense. There’s plenty of time to research the law on the charges you’re facing, work on strategy with your defense counsel, and perhaps other means of helping your case. Mr. Waldo allegedly decided to follow the idea of Steven Martinez. Mr. Martinez, for those who don’t remember, won the coveted 2012 Tax Offender of the Year award for hiring a hit man to eliminate the witnesses against him. Yes, Mr. Waldo supposedly did the same thing.

Mr. Waldo was indicted on Friday on nine counts of solicitation to commit murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. According to the press release from the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s office,

The indictment alleges that while serving time in custody at the Martinez Detention Facility, the defendant solicited and conspired with other inmates to arrange the killing of nine different witnesses that were set to testify against him at an upcoming trial. These ten new charges will be added to the fifty charges the defendant currently faces.

There is one bright spot for Mr. Waldo if he is found guilty and spends a very lengthy term at a California penal institution: He’s a shoe-in to be nominated for Tax Offender of the Year in a future year.

Nominations Due for 2013 Tax Offender of the Year

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

With just under a week to go before 2013 is complete, it’s time for a final reminder to submit nominations for the Tax Offender of the Year. To be considered for the Tax Offender of the Year award, the individual must do more than cheat on his or her taxes. It has to be special; it really needs to be a Bozo-like action or actions. Here are the past lucky recipients:

2012: Steven Martinez
2011: United States Congress
2010: Tony and Micaela Dutson
2009: Mark Anderson
2008: Robert Beale
2007: Gene Haas
2005: Sharon Lee Caulder

Nominations are due by Sunday night, December 29th.

Attorney Found Guilty of 28 Tax Charges, but Does Get Nomination for Tax Offender of the Year

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Donald Wanland, Jr. is described as a “financially successful” attorney. A resident of El Dorado Hills, California (a Sacramento suburb), Mr. Wanland practices in real estate, business litigation, and construction litigation. Perhaps I should change that to practiced because a trip to ClubFed appears to be in his future.

Mr. Wanland may have earned lots of money–his tax returns from 2000 through 2003 showed income of more than $1.5 million–but he didn’t like paying taxes. Now, most of us don’t like paying taxes but we do so anyway as the consequences of not doing so can be problematic (especially for an attorney). Mr. Wanland, though, had other ideas. At least he filed those tax returns (showing tax due of $448,451); he just didn’t pay those taxes. The DOJ press release notes that Mr. Wanland didn’t pay all of his taxes in the 1990s either.

Well, what did Mr. Wanland do after 2003? He didn’t file returns (though he earned over $1 million from 2004 – 2007). When the IRS issued a levy in 2005, Mr. Wanland decided that a good strategy was to hide all of his income through nominee accounts. (Here’s a helpful hint to others considering such a strategy: Don’t do this!) Meanwhile, Mr. Wanland continued to spend money on vacations, two new cars (a Mercedes Benz and a Cadillac Escalade), gambling at Las Vegas casinos (well, as a Las Vegas resident I’m not as upset with this), and a pool at his home. These were not good ideas when he owed significant tax to the IRS. Oh, I should mention he also made false statements to the IRS.

These are felonies, something an attorney should be knowledgeable about (and want to avoid). A jury on Thursday found that Mr. Wanland was guilty of 28 tax-related charges. Given that the amount of tax involved, I suspect Mr. Wanland is looking at four years at ClubFed. There’s also a likely fine, and restitution.

Mr. Wanland does have one thing to look forward to: He did receive a nomination for my Tax Offender of the Year Award.

2012 Tax Offender of the Year

Monday, December 31st, 2012

It’s time once more for that prestigious award, the 2012 Tax Offender of the Year. To be considered for this award you must do more than cheat on your taxes. It has to be special; it really needs to be a Bozo-like action or actions.

Coming in third this year is the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians in Florida. The Miccouskees run a successful casino near Miami. While the tribe itself is exempt from taxes (they’re a sovereign nation), the members of the tribe are not. The Miccouskees allegedly decided to ignore that little aspect of the law. Their attorney apparently advised them that wasn’t a good idea. So did the Miccosukees start withholding taxes on distributions to its members? Or did they sue their attorney for malpractice? And did they also allegedly not forward federal income tax withheld from patrons’ winnings to the IRS?

The Miccosukees can’t win in 2012; these are still all allegations and nothing has been resolved. However, they are very strong contenders for the 2013 Tax Offender of the Year award.

Coming in second place is last year’s winner, the United States Congress. While I’m tempted to put them in first place–after all, there’s an excellent chance I won’t be filing any personal tax returns until late March–I can’t. There’s still a day for everyone to get on the same page, and this will have an impact in 2013, not 2012. True, the US Senate has not passed a budget in years (President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget received no votes from either the House or the Senate), and the Tax Code keeps getting more and more convoluted; however, most of the changes that are coming are the result of the passage of Obamacare. I already awarded the 2011 Tax Offender of the Year to Congress for that (and their other acts of ineptitude).


Steven Martinez used to work for the IRS. After leaving the IRS, he became a tax preparer. Mr. Martinez had a unique method of filing tax returns. He first prepared the returns, showing his clients owed money to the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board (California’s income tax agency). He then had his clients make out checks to a client trust account rather than the IRS or FTB. He also had estimated taxes made out through that account.

Of course, since I’m writing this you know where the money ended up: home improvements for himself, a beach house in Mexico, usage of a private airplane, investments (more than $2 million), and for $2 million of payments on credit cards and loans.

After preparing those returns showing clients owing money, Mr. Martinez prepared a second set of returns. These showed the clients owing either a small amount of money or no tax at all. He then submitted those returns to the IRS and FTB.

Sooner or later this fraud was bound to be discovered. A taxpayer would obtain a transcript of his return and notice the differences between what was filed with the IRS (or FTB) and what his copy of the return showed. Or perhaps some unlucky taxpayer was audited and the copy of the return that the taxpayer had and the return the IRS had would not match.

He committed Social Security fraud and identity theft by preparing false tax returns with the IRS. He mailed those returns to the IRS; that’s mail fraud. He used nominee bank accounts to conceal $2 million of income. Yes, he also prepared false tax returns for himself.

All of the above is definitely Bozo behavior. However, what I’ve written is just the beginning of the story. Mr. Martinez was indicted on April 15, 2011 for 49 counts of fraud, money laundering, and identity theft.

After being indicted, there are a number of possible strategies. Getting a good attorney would be the first thing I’d want to do. I’d look at the defense I have to the charges (if any). Perhaps a plea bargain is in order. Maybe I should hire a hit man to kill the prosecution witnesses.

Wait a second: Did I just bring up the idea of finding a hired killer to eliminate the prosecution witnesses? I did. After all, if you’re accused of 49 felonies, what’s a few more anyway? And yes, Mr. Martinez did exactly that.

Luckily for all concerned, the man that Mr. Martinez solicited to commit the murders called the FBI; a second meeting between the would-be assassin and Mr. Martinez was taped by the FBI. Mr. Martinez told the man that “he could make him rich for the rest of his life, $100,000 cash, if he eliminated the lady in Rancho Santa Fe and the lady in La Jolla.” Mr. Martinez also helpfully told the supposed hit man to use two different pistols and buy a silencer.

In the end, Mr. Martinez pleaded guilty to not only the tax fraud charges, but murder-for-hire, witness tampering involving attempted murder, and solicitation of a crime of violence. Mr. Martinez is truly deserving of the 2012 Tax Offender of the Year award.


That’s a wrap for 2012. Hopefully, 2013 will be a fruitful and prosperous year for everyone.