Patience pays off for some tax cheats
Biggest tax cheats? Lower income investors

Tax Cheat Rap Sheet:
Week ending May 4, 2007

The Senate's recent look at ways offshore tax havens escape IRS enforcement got me thinking about those scofflaws who do get caught.

Criminal_3 So I did a little Googling and discovered some recent tax prosecutions.

I might just make this a regular Friday afternoon effort. I suspect I'll find at least a few reports of tax miscreants every week.

The cases might not be as sexy or salacious as those reported on The Smoking Gun, but the ramifications for us law-abiding taxpayers are substantial. If you and I are shelling out our fair share, then everyone else needs to do so, too. When they don't, the rest of us end up literally paying for their crimes.

And on that note, here are the tax evaders selected for inclusion in our inaugural Tax Cheat Rap Sheet.

We start in the Midwest, where a veteran financial planner/tax preparer has been sentenced to five months in federal prison for shorting the IRS on her own income tax returns.

Linda Cochran of Goodrich, Mich., also was ordered to pay a $3,000 fine, file correct tax returns from 1999 to the present and pay all overdue taxes along with the associated interest and penalties.

The Flint Journal has details on Cochran's case.

Next we head to Florida, where another tax preparer this week was convicted by a federal jury of 50 charges of preparing fraudulent individual and trust income tax returns, impeding the enforcement of tax laws, and criminal contempt.

The cost of this Sunshine State tax crime to the U.S. Treasury comes to more than $6.4 million.

WebCPA reports that Louis Wayne Ratfield, of Lake Worth, Fla., was originally indicted on 56 counts for a tax fraud scheme that prosecutors said involved hiding income and assets in bogus trusts.

Ratfield faces a maximum potential sentence for each violation of up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and financial responsibility for court costs. In addition, he could end up serving additional prison time, or a fine, on the criminal contempt charges.

State tax officials also want their share. It took a New Mexico state district court jury less than an hour to find Garlon Patrick Ellis of Carlsbad, N.M., guilty of three counts of tax evasion.

Ellis didn't file state tax returns in 2002, 2003 and 2004. A bit more detail can be found in this AP story.

And on the international tax scene, we have a Whitaker, New Zealand, man who didn't make much of an effort to pay his taxes. He also didn't put a lot into his defense, pleading guilty May 3 to evading taxes of nearly $150,000.

New_zealand_map_2 Peter William Bicknell of Titirangi, N.Z., was sentenced to 18 months in jail. He also was ordered to pay $1,500 in attorney's fees. New Zealand officials said Buckner can apply for home detention.

The self-employed courier driver admitted to tax investigators that he'd put letters from the country's tax department "in a pile" and had made "not a lot" of effort to sort out his tax liabilities.

And just to prove that taxes and tax investigations are the same the world over, Tracey Lloyd of New Zealand's Inland Revenue Department said that officials owed it to honest taxpayers to make sure that rogue operators are brought to account.

"Taxes are used to fund schools, hospitals, and other government and community services," said Lloyd. "Everybody has to pay their share."

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