Many people and organizations (if not most) approach a new year by setting new goals or implementing changes. This exercise, however, requires reflection on the events, successes and failures of the previous year. And government agencies are not exempt from taking the time to reflect on the accomplishments of the previous year. The IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) recently selected its “Top Ten Cases of 2021,” and the list includes a range of significant investigations over the past fiscal year.
IRS CI, usually
According to its mission statement, Criminal Investigation “serves the American public by investigating potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and related financial crimes in a manner that promotes confidence in the tax system and respect for the law “. IRS CI’s four main strategies are compliance, money launderinginternational and terrorism. In addition, CI conducts investigations that are consistent with its mission, taking into account factors such as: whether the investigation is highly publicized, whether the investigation involves egregious allegations, the deterrent nature of the investigation, and compliance with the CI’s Annual Business Plan (ABP).
The top ten cases of 2021
The IRS CI selected the following ten cases as the top investigations of 2021:
- Albuquerque couple sentenced to federal prison in Ayudando Guardians case
Susan Harris and William Harris were sentenced to 47 and 15 years in federal prison, respectively. They stole funds from Ayudando Guardians Inc., a non-profit organization that provided guardianship, guardianship, and financial management to hundreds of people with special needs. For more details on this case, click on here.
- Rochester man goes to jail and is ordered to pay millions in restitution for his role in the Ponzi scheme that stole millions from investors
John Piccarreto Jr. was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution totaling $19,842,613.66 after being convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and file a false tax return. He conspired with others to get money through a Ponzi investment fraud. For more details on this case, click on here.
- Orlando sisters sentenced for $25 million tax evasion scheme
Petra Gomez and her co-conspirator, her sister, Jakeline Lumucso, were sentenced to eight and four years in federal prison, respectively. They operated a tax preparation business with five locations in Central Florida that filed over 16,000 false tax returns for clients from 2012 to 2016 with an estimated total loss to the IRS of $25 million. dollars. For more details on this case, click on here.
- Russian bank founder convicted of exit tax evasion after renouncing US citizenship
Oleg Tinkov, aka Oleg Tinkoff, was ordered to pay more than $248 million in taxes and sentenced to jail and a year of supervised release after he renounced his US citizenship in an attempt to cover up significant stock gains that had to be reported to the IRS after the company he founded became a multibillion-dollar publicly traded company. For more details on this case, click on here.
- Ontario man who ran multi-million dollar unlicensed bitcoin exchange business sentenced to 3 years in federal prison
Hugo Sergio Mejia was sentenced to three years in federal prison and had to give up all assets from running an unlicensed business that traded at least $13 million in Bitcoin and cash, and vice versa, often for drug dealers. He charged commissions on transactions and set up separate companies to hide his true business. For more details on this case, click on here.
- Owner of a bitcoin exchange sentenced to prison for money laundering
Rossen G. Iossifov, a Bulgarian national, was sentenced to 121 months in federal prison for participating in a scheme where popular online auction and sales websites – such as Craigslist and eBay – falsely advertised expensive goods (usually vehicles) that didn’t actually exist. Once the victims sent payment for the goods, the conspiracy engaged in a complicated money laundering scheme where US-based associates accepted funds from the victims, converted those funds into cryptocurrency, and transfer the cryptocurrency to overseas-based money launderers. For more details on this case, click on here.
- Former Orange County church pastor sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for orchestrating $33 million scam that defrauded investors
Kent RE Whitney, the ex-Church of Self-Health pastor, was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $22.66 million in restitution to victims after defrauding investors of 33 millions of dollars by orchestrating a church-based investment scam. Under his leadership, church officials appeared on television and in live seminars to make false and misleading claims to induce investors to invest in church entities. The victims sent over $33 million to the church and received fabricated monthly statements reassuring them that their funds had been invested, when in reality little or no money ever was. For more details on this case, click on here.
- Prairie village man sentenced to 12 years for $7.3m payday loan fraud and $8m tax evasion
Joel Tucker was sentenced to 12 years and six months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $8 million in restitution to the IRS after selling false information or fictitious debts to payday loan companies and not have filed federal income tax returns – for himself or his businesses – with the IRS for several years. For more details on this case, click on here.
- DC Solar owner sentenced to 30 years in prison for billion dollar Ponzi scheme
Jeff Carpoff, the owner of California-based DC Solar, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and lost $120 million in assets to the US government for restitution to victims after creating a Ponzi scheme that involved selling thousands of manufactured mobile solar generator (MSG) units that did not exist. He committed account and rental income fraud and purchased a sports team, luxury vehicles, real estate and a NASCAR team with the proceeds. For more details on this case, click on here.
- San Fernando Valley family members sentenced to years in prison for fraudulently obtaining tens of millions of dollars in COVID relief
The Ayvazyan family received sentences ranging from 17.5 years in prison to 10 months probation for crimes ranging from bank and electronic fraud to aggravated identity theft. The family used stolen and fictitious identities to submit 150 fraudulent applications for COVID relief funds, based on fake payroll records and tax documents, to the Small Business Administration, then used the funds they received to purchase luxury houses, gold coins, jewelry designer handbags. and more. Richard Ayvazyan and his wife Terabelian cut off their ankle monitoring devices and fled ahead of their sentencing hearing; they are currently on the run. For more details on this case, click on here.
IRS CI has been pretty busy in 2021. Notably, CI’s top ten investigations included five California-based cases. Additionally, the investigations involved a range of activities, including operating bitcoin exchanges and applying for COVID relief funds — activities that are attracting the attention of government and tax enforcement agencies. With a fresh new year, it will be interesting to see new IRS CI investigations and areas of interest, and taxpayers should be aware of their tax and legal obligations, as well as potential criminal exposure.
 ITN 188.8.131.52(1).
 ITN 184.108.40.206(1).
 ITN 220.127.116.11(1).