U.S. Attorney’s Office Files Charges In Rhode Island Against Two Borrowers Alleging Fraud In Seeking Paycheck Protection Loans

U.S. Attorney’s Office Files Charges In Rhode Island Against Two Borrowers Alleging Fraud In Seeking Paycheck Protection Loans

This is the first case in the nation to be charged with fraudulently seeking CARES Act SBA Paycheck Protection Loans.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District Of Rhode Island announced on May 5, 2020 in a press release that two businessmen have been charged with allegedly filing bank loan applications fraudulently seeking more than a half-million dollars in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Charges Filed By The U.S. Attorney’s Office

David A. Staveley, aka Kurt D. Sanborn, 52, of Andover, Massachusetts, and David Butziger, 51, of Warwick, Rhode Island, are charged with conspiring to seek forgivable loans guaranteed by the SBA, claiming to have dozens of employees earning wages at four different business entities when, as alleged by prosecutors, there were no employees working for any of the businesses.

Staveley and Butziger are charged by way of a federal criminal complaint with conspiracy to make false statement to influence the SBA and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Additionally, Staveley is charged with aggravated identity theft. Butziger is charged with bank fraud.

According to court documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Providence, Rhode Island, the fraudulent loan requests were to pay employees of businesses that were not operating prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and had no salaried employees, or, as in one instance, to pay employees at a business the loan applicant did not own.

Allegedly, Staveley and Butziger discussed via email the creation of fraudulent loan applications and supporting documentations to seek loans guaranteed by the SBA for COVID-19 relief through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It is alleged that Staveley posed as his brother in real estate transactions.

It is alleged that Staveley claimed in loan applications requesting more than $438,500 that he had dozens of employees at three restaurants he owned, two in Warwick, Rhode Island, and one in Berlin, Massachusetts. An investigation determined that one of the Rhode Island restaurants, the former Remington House, and the Massachusetts restaurant, On The Trax, were not open for business prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, at the time the loan applications were submitted, or at any time thereafter. Moreover, Staveley did not own or have any role in the second Rhode Island restaurant, Top of the Bay, for which he was seeking financial relief.

According to court documents, Staveley’s Massachusetts restaurant was closed by March 10, 2020, when the town of Berlin revoked the business’ liquor license for numerous reasons, including that “Sanborn” allegedly misrepresented that his brother owned the restaurant. Investigators obtained information that Staveley/Sanborn allegedly used his brother’s personal identifying information in other real estate transactions as well.

According to court documents, it is alleged that on April 6, 2020, Butziger filed an application seeking a $105,381 SBA loan under the PPP as owner of an unincorporated entity named Dock Wireless.  Butziger claimed in documentation filed with the bank and in a telephone call with an FBI undercover agent posing as a bank compliance officer that he had seven full-time employees on Dock Wireless’ payroll, including himself. Butziger falsely represented to the agent that he brought the employees on full-time on January 1, 2020, and laid them off at the end of March. Butziger claimed the employees continued to work without being paid through April 2020, and that he would use SBA PPP funds to pay them.

The Rhode Island State Department of Revenue provided information to the IRS of having no records of employee wages having been paid in 2020 by Butziger or Dock Wireless. Agents interviewed several of the supposed Dock Wireless employees who reported that they never worked for Butziger or Dock Wireless.

Keep in mind that the filing of charges in a federal criminal complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The CARES Act

The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP.  In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.

The PPP allows qualifying small-businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%.  PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.  The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within eight weeks of receipt and use at least 75% of the forgiven amount for payroll.

On April 23, 2020, the SBA issued guidance in the form of an additional FAQ. The guidance, outlined in FAQ 31, reminds borrowers that they “should review carefully the required certification that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.”

More specifically, FAQ 31 provides:

Question: Do businesses owned by large companies with adequate sources of liquidity to support the business’s ongoing operations qualify for a PPP loan?

Answer: In addition to reviewing applicable affiliation rules to determine eligibility, all borrowers must assess their economic need for a PPP loan under the standard established by the CARES Act and the PPP regulations at the time of the loan application. Although the CARES Act suspends the ordinary requirement that borrowers must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere (as defined in section 3(h) of the Small Business Act), borrowers still must certify in good faith that their PPP loan request is necessary. Specifically, before submitting a PPP application, all borrowers should review carefully the required certification that “[c]urrent economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.” Borrowers must make this certification in good faith, taking into account their current business activity and their ability to access other sources of liquidity sufficient to support their ongoing operations in a manner that is not significantly detrimental to the business.

Ramifications for Certifications Not Made in Good Faith

Borrowers that fail to make their certifications in good faith may be subject to civil and criminal penalties. Any borrower who knowingly makes a false statement to obtain forgiveness of an SBA-guaranteed loan is punishable under the law, including 18 USC §§1001 and 3571 by imprisonment of not more than five years and/or a fine of up to $250,000; under 15 USC §645 by imprisonment of not more than two years and/or a fine of not more than $5,000; and, if submitted to a Federally insured institution, under 18 USC §1014 by imprisonment of not more than thirty years and/or a fine of not more than $1,000,000.  The Federal District Courts could expect to see more of these cases as the SBA and U.S. Treasury audits any borrower that has received over $2 million in PPP loan proceeds and conducts spot checks for smaller loans.

What Should You Do?

Whether you are looking to legally optimize the disbursement of your PPP Loan proceeds to assure loan forgiveness or defending charges of certification not made in good faith, it is important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible to preserve your rights and/or mitigate your losses.  The tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California know exactly what to say and how to handle issues with Federal agencies including the SBA, U.S. Treasury and the IRS.  Our experience and expertise not only level the playing field but also puts you in the driver’s seat as we take full control of resolving your tax problems. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  Additionally, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

President Trump Seeking To Prosecute Legalized Adult-use Marijuana Businesses

On June 20, 2019, the House of Representatives voted to restrict the Department Of Justice (“DOJ”) from interfering with States that have legalized adult-use marijuana, including those allowing recreational use, cultivation and sales. This amendment was attached to a large-scale appropriations bill to fund parts of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020.

But under the 2021 Federal Budget released by the Trump Administration, President Trump proposes slashing all legal protection for state medical marijuana programs which would open the door for the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) and other federal law enforcement agencies to use federal funds to shut down medical marijuana programs.

Marijuana Remains Illegal Under Federal Law

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

House Appropriations Bill Amendment

The Blumenauer McClintock Amendment sponsored by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Tom McClintock (R-CA) that was included in the appropriations bill to fund parts of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2020, states that:

None of the funds made available under this House Appropriations Bill to the Department of Justice may be used to prevent to any State, territory or D.C. from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana.

In the past such amendment (starting in 2014) was limited to medical marijuana state-licensed business but this expansion is huge given that nearly one in four Americans reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute.

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.

The medical use of cannabis is legal (with a doctor’s recommendation) in 33 states and Washington DC. Those 33 states being Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. The medical use of cannabis is also legal in the territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states.

Eleven states and Washington DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use — no doctor’s letter required — for adults over the age of 21. Those ten states being Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington and the territory of Guam.

Amendment Spearheaded By Rep. Earl Blumenauer, co-founder of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus.

The amendment was voted in by Congress in a 267 to 165 bipartisan vote. “It’s past time we protect all cannabis programs,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “We have much more work to do. The federal government is out of touch and our cannabis laws are out of date. I’m pleased that the House agrees and we are able to move forward.”

The fate of whether this amendment will continue in the 2021 Federal budget is unknown for now. Historically the Senate’s Appropriations Committee has been relatively open to attaching marijuana riders to spending bills, and has consistently approved the medical cannabis protections, but the body’s Republican leadership may be reluctant to go against President Trump’s wishes when it comes to enforcing federal prohibition against licensed businesses and consumers in states that allow marijuana use and sales.

Keep in mind that if this amendment is part of the 2021 Federal budget that ultimately gets approved, to avail yourself of the protections of the amendment, you must be in complete compliance with your State’s cannabis laws and regulations. 

But until Federal law changes, the cannabis industry will still have to bear the followings risks and challenges:

Higher Taxes Still Remain

It still remains to be seen when favorable changes will be made to the Internal Revenue Code which treats businesses in the marijuana industry differently resulting in such business paying at least 3-times as much in taxes as ordinary businesses.

Generally, businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under I.R.C. §162. This includes wages, rent, supplies, etc. However, in 1982 Congress added I.R.C. §280E. Under §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. Marijuana, including medical marijuana, is a controlled substance. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in marijuana have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file

IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

The minimum penalty for failing to file EACH Form 8300 is $25,000 if the failure is due to an intentional or willful disregard of the cash reporting requirements. Penalties may also be imposed for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to fail to file a required report; for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to file a required report containing a material omission or misstatement of fact; or for structuring, or attempting to structure, transactions to avoid the reporting requirements. These violations may also be subject to criminal prosecution which, upon conviction, may result in imprisonment of up to 5 years or fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations or both.

Marijuana-related businesses operate in an environment of cash transactions as many banks remain reluctant to do business with many in the marijuana industry. Like any cash-based business the IRS scrutinizes the amount of gross receipts to report and it is harder to prove to the IRS expenses paid in cash. So it is of most importance that the proper facilities and procedures be set up to maintain an adequate system of books and records.

How Do You Know Which Cannabis Tax Attorney Is Best For You?

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government especially if President Trump’s budget proposal slashing all legal protection for state medical marijuana programs passes.  While cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you.  It’s coming down that the biggest risk is TAXES.  Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Los Angeles and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a Bitcoin Tax Attorney can do for you.

Former Silk Road Senior Advisor Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court

Roger Thomas Clark Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court

On January 30, 2020, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) issued a press release that Roger Thomas Clark, who was also known as “Plural of Mongoose” or “Variety Jones,” pled guilty for conspiring to distribute illicit narcotics in mass quantities. The press release stated that Mr. Clark was the senior advisor to the owner and operator of the Silk Road online illicit black market and in committing his crime also used the online nicknames “CaptainSargeant”, “VJ,” and “Cimon”.

What Was “Silk Road”?

Silk Road” was created by Ross Ulbricht in January 2011.  He owned and operated an underground website until it was shut down by law enforcement authorities in October 2013.  Silk Road emerged as the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet at the time, serving as a sprawling black-market bazaar where unlawful goods and services, including illegal drugs including cannabis, were bought and sold regularly by the site’s users.  While in operation, Silk Road was used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other unlawful goods and services to well over 100,000 buyers, and to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions.

Silk Road enabled its users to buy and sell drugs and other illegal goods and services anonymously and outside the reach of law enforcement.  Silk Road was operated on what is known as “The Onion Router,” or “Tor” network, a special network of computers on the Internet, distributed around the world, designed to conceal the true IP addresses of the computers on the network and thereby the identities of the network’s users.  Silk Road also included a Bitcoin-based payment system that served to facilitate the illegal commerce conducted on the site, including by concealing the identities and locations of the users transmitting and receiving funds through the site.

Mr. Ulbricht was eventually convicted and is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States was denied on June 28, 2018.  Already he has been languishing in prison for half a decade now.

Clark Guilty Plea

The press release stated that Mr. Clark was described by Mr. Ulbricht as a “real mentor” who advised Ulbricht about, among other things, security vulnerabilities in the Silk Road site, technical infrastructure, and the rules that governed Silk Road users and vendors, and the promotion of sales on Silk Road, including the sales of narcotics.  Clark also provided advice to Ulbricht on developing a “cover story” to make it appear as though Ulbricht had sold Silk Road.  Clark also assisted with hiring programmers to help improve the infrastructure of, and maintain, Silk Road.  Clark also was responsible for gathering information on law enforcement’s efforts to investigate Silk Road and Clark advised Ulbricht on how to protect the Silk Road Empire.  For instance, when a Silk Road staff member was suspected of stealing $350,000 in Bitcoin from the site, Clark suggested to Ulbricht that Ulbricht commission a murder-for-hire.  Ulbricht took that suggestion.  (Ultimately, unbeknownst to both men, the attempted murder-for-hire did not result in any harm to the target.) Clark was paid at least hundreds of thousands of dollars for his assistance in operating Silk Road.

Mr. Clark, age 56 and a citizen of Canada, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  He is scheduled to be sentenced in Federal District Court on May 29, 2020.

Clark’s Troubles Could Spill Over To IRS

For individuals nabbed by the Federal Government, it is not surprising that the IRS gets involved and they are also charged with tax crimes.

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

What Should You Do?

It is risky enough to be involved in cannabis (which is illegal under Federal law) or crypto-currency, so imagine how much riskier it is combining both.  It is important to control this risk which you can do by engaging a cannabis tax attorney or a bitcoin tax attorney at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations.  We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to mitigate criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2019 Annual Report

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2019 Annual Report

On December 5, 2019 the IRS released the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CI) annual report, highlighting significant successes and criminal enforcement actions taken in fiscal year ending September 30, 2019.

In issuing this report IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig states: “CI is critical to the overall enforcement efforts of the IRS in pursuing its Mission in a fair, impartial, diligent and, where appropriate, tenacious manner. The Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report summarizes various CI activities throughout the year but vastly understates the importance of CI to the overall IRS mission. CI supports the efforts of compliant taxpayers by visibly demonstrating the risks of noncompliance thereby helping otherwise honest taxpayers stay honest and compliant.”

According to the report, CI initiated 2,485 cases in fiscal year 2019, applying approximately 75% of its time to tax related investigations. CI is the only federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over federal tax crimes achieving a conviction rate of 91.2% in fiscal year 2019.

The Special Agent’s Role In The IRS Criminal Investigation Division

An IRS Special Agent works for the CI. Special Agents are duly sworn law enforcement officers who are trained to “follow the money”. They investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code, and related financial crimes. Unless they are working undercover they will identify themselves with credentials which include a gold badge. The same gold badge appears on their business cards. Generally, IRS Special Agents travel in pairs if they are going to interview someone. One to conduct the interview, and the other to take notes, and act as a witness if necessary.

If you are contacted by an IRS Special Agent it is because he or she is conducting a CRIMINAL investigation. It is possible that the Special Agent is only interested in you as a witness against the target of the IRS investigation. However, it is a bad idea to speak to Special Agent without a criminal tax attorney present. IRS Special Agents are highly trained financial investigators. If you are the target or subject of an IRS criminal investigation you are not going to talk your way out of it, by “cooperating”; instead you may be giving the IRS more evidence to use against you.

Even if the IRS Special Agent tells you that you are only a witness you should still consult with an experienced criminal tax attorney BEFORE speaking with an IRS agent. If you make misstatements that you think put you in a better light you could change your role from a witness into a target. The best tactic is to simply tell the Special Agent that you are uncomfortable talking to him until you have had a chance to speak with your attorney. Then ask him for his business card. In this way your tax attorney can contact the Special Agent directly, and determine the best course of action.

There are a number of statutes in the Internal Revenue Code that authorize the federal government to prosecute individuals, including those dealing with tax evasion, fraud and false statements, failure to file returns, failure to pay tax, etc. Some, like the tax evasion statute, are worded in particularly broad terms and may ensnare the unwary or careless taxpayers.

If CI recommends prosecution, it will give its evidence to the Justice Department to decide the special charges. Individuals are typically charged with one or more of three crimes: tax evasion, filing a false return, or not filing a tax return. All of which are tax fraud.

Two Special Programs Run By CI

With the avalanche of billions of data flowing to IRS, CI has been running two special programs: the International Tax Enforcement Group (ITEG), and the Nationally Coordinated Investigations Unit (NCIU). Both focus on increasing the rate of taxpayer compliance with income reporting requirements contained in the Internal Revenue Code – particularly those pertaining to the disclosure of foreign financial accounts, reporting of virtual currency transactions, and reporting transactions involving cannabis.

What Should You Do?

Very quickly a criminal investigation can turn to the worst for a targeted taxpayer so you should promptly seek tax counsel who can act proactively before the IRS does. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) protect you from excessive fines and possible jail time. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out how a cannabis tax attorney can help you. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Santa Barbara County Police Shuts Down Illegal Cannabis Operation

Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Shuts Down Illegal Cannabis Grow Operation Seizing 1,700 Marijuana Plants

Anyone conducting business in cannabis surely knows that under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. So the risk is apparent that at any time Federal authorities could come and shut you down but don’t think that just because cannabis is legal in California, you do not have to worry about the State.

California law mandates that you can only sell cannabis if you have obtained a license to do so. These licenses being issued by the BCC. If you don’t have a license, then selling cannabis or transporting it in order to sell it is still a crime under H&S Code §11360.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Raids Illegal Cannabis Grow Operation.

As reported by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, authorities received complaints regarding possible illegal marijuana cultivation occurring within the La Cresta community, Riverside County.

On November 14, 2019, deputies served a search warrant in the 39000 block of Calle De Campareno. Approximately 1700 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were located and collected. In addition, the electrical system within the residence was illegally altered causing a severe fire hazard and theft of utilities. The estimated theft of utilities for the last six months is going to be up words of approximately $60,000. The entire residence was turned into an illegal marijuana cultivation.

While making announcements regarding the service of a search warrant, two female individuals fled out the rear of the residence and were detained.  They were subsequently arrested for maintaining a drug house, illegal marijuana cultivation, and theft of utilities.

Meiyun Zhou, 38-year-old female resident of La Cresta, was arrested and booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

Xiao Mei Chen, 22-year-old female resident of Corona, was arrested and booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

The investigation is ongoing.

In a previous blog we wrote about Governor Gavin Newsom’s promise made in February 2019 to deploy the California National Guard against marijuana grows in California. Multijurisdictional task forces have long been deployed against marijuana grows in California as we noted in the following blogs:

  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Kern County
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Riverside County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Buellton.

Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

For most defendants, unlicensed sale or transport for sale of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For defendants under 18, it is an infraction. Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of cannabis without a license is an infraction.

But the sale/transport for sale of cannabis without a license to do so is a felony for the following defendants:

  1. Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
  2. Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis;
  3. Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
  4. Defendants who imported or attempted or offered to import into California, or transported or attempted/offered to transport out of California for sale, more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis.

In any of these scenarios, black market sale or transportation for sale of cannabis under H&S Code §11360 is punishable anywhere from two to four years in jail.

Transporting cannabis without intent to sell it, or giving cannabis away, is not a crime in California so long as BOTH of the following are true:

  1. You transport or give away not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
  2. Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.

What Should You Do?

You can count on other county governments coordinating resources and making comprehensive strikes on unlicensed and illegal cannabis operations for the safety of the public.

Both civil and criminal penalties will apply to unlicensed operators so it is imperative that anyone cultivating, manufacturing or distributing cannabis on a commercial basis in California seeks a local and state license for their operations immediately, if they have not already done so. Protect yourself and your investment by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

cryptocurrency-bitcoin-reporting-tax-law

10,000 Cryptocurrency Owners Will Receive Warning Letters From The IRS

10,000 Cryptocurrency Owners Will Receive Warning Letters From The IRS

After years of analyzing data from third parties involved in the cryptocurrency exchanges, the IRS announced in a press release on July 26, 2019 that it has started sending letters to cryptocurrency owners advising them to report their cryptocurrency transactions and pay their taxes. More than 10,000 taxpayers have been identified by IRS as being involved in cryptocurrency transactions but who the IRS believes may not have been compliant in reporting these transactions on their tax returns.

Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions are, when appropriate, liable for tax, penalties and interest. In some cases, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution.

Notices Being Sent To Taxpayers Are The First Step In IRS Enforcement Action

The IRS is using three types of notices to send to more than 10,000 taxpayers by the end of August 2019 – notices 6173, 6174 or 6174-A. Of all the notices, Letter 6173 requires a signature from the recipient under perjury that they are compliant with the U.S. tax code.

If you receive Letter 6173, you should consult with a tax attorney as the submission of a statement signed under penalties of perjury that is false can result in serious consequences including criminal prosecution.

Virtual currency is an ongoing focus area for IRS Criminal Investigation.

Last year the IRS announced a Virtual Currency Compliance Campaign to address tax noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through outreach and examinations of taxpayers. The IRS will remain actively engaged in addressing non-compliance related to virtual currency transactions through a variety of efforts, ranging from taxpayer education to audits to criminal investigations.

Taxation Of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency transactions are apparently wildly taxable – far more so than investors may think. Although the IRS has not issued much formal guidance, the position of IRS is that any transaction involving virtual currency can trigger a taxable event including air drops and fork transaction as well as conversions or trades from one virtual currency to another virtual currency.

The IRS in 2014 issued Notice 2014-21 stating that it treats crypto currency as property for tax purposes. Therefore, selling, spending and even exchanging crypto for other tokens all likely have capital gain implications. Likewise, receiving it as compensation or by other means will be ordinary income.

Some would think that if bitcoin is property, trades should be tax deferred under the like-kind changes rues of I.R.C. §1031. Under that theory someone who owned Bitcoin could diversify their holdings into Ethereum or Litecoin, and plausibly tell the IRS it created no tax obligations. Unfortunately, the new Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 does away with that loophole making it clear that “like kind exchanges” which lets people swap an asset for a similar one without triggering a tax obligation are not available for non-real estate assets.

While Bitcoin receives most of the attention these days, it is only one of hundreds of crypto currencies. Everything discussed with regard to bitcoin taxation applies to all crypto currencies.

Here are the basic tax rules followed by IRS on specific crypto currency transactions:

  • Trading crypto currencies produces capital gains or losses, with the latter being able to offset gains and reduce tax.
  • Exchanging one crypto currency for another — for example, using Ethereum to purchase an altcoin — creates a taxable event. The token is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains or losses.
  • Receiving payments in crypto currency in exchange for products or services or as salary is treated as ordinary income at the fair market value of the coin at the time of receipt.
  • Spending crypto currency is a tax event and may generate capital gains or losses, which can be short-term or long-term. For example, say you bought one coin for $500. If that coin was then worth $700 and you bought a $700 gift card, there is a $200 taxable gain. Depending on the holding period, it could be a short- or long-term capital gain subject to different rates.
  • Converting a crypto currency to U.S. dollars or another currency at a gain is a taxable event, as it is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains.
  • Air drops are considered ordinary income on the day of the air drop. That value will become the basis of the coin. When it’s sold, exchanged, etc., there will be a capital gain.
  • Mining crypto currency is considered ordinary income equal to the fair market value of the coin the day it was successfully mined.
  • Initial coin offerings including certain forks do not fall under the IRS’s tax-free treatment for raising capital. Thus, they produce ordinary income to individuals and businesses alike.

Given the limited guidance by IRS, there are still tax positions that can be advocated or structured so that taxpayers dealing with crypto currency can defer gains and minimize taxes. That is why it is essential you seek qualified tax counsel.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

What Should You Do?

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year since Bitcoin’s launch, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns. 

And now that likeexchange treatment is prohibited on non-real estate transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even if it is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward. Let the Bitcoin tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability. Additionally, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

failing to pay taxes could land you in jail

Beware: Failing To Pay The IRS Could Land You In Jail

Beware: Failing To Pay The IRS Could Land You In Jail

The IRS is notorious for taking aggressive collection action including filing tax liens, issuing wage garnishments, seizing assets and levying bank accounts in order to collect outstanding IRS debt. In some cases the IRS is also looking to make an example of what happens to taxpayers who do not cooperate in paying their taxes or even worse not filing tax returns.

Owner Of Colorado Business Sentenced To Prison For Tax Crimes.

In a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Colorado, Douglas A. Wieland, a Colorado paving company owner, was sentenced to prison for failure to pay income taxes. Mr. Wieland was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison by U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson in Denver, Colorado. In September 2018, Mr. Wieland pleaded guilty to two counts of failure to pay income taxes, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7203.

According to court documents, Mr. Wieland owned and operated Performance Paving, a company that performed asphalt and concrete work. Mr. Wieland admitted that, from April 1999 through December 2017, he did not make any payments toward his income taxes. He also admitted that he took steps to conceal his income and assets to prevent the IRS from seizing his assets. He deposited over $1.8 million into a “warehouse bank” account and then used that account to pay for his personal expenses. The purpose of a “warehouse bank” is to maintain the financial privacy of all “account holders” by commingling the funds of numerous account holders in a single bank account, usually at a domestic bank in the United States. Mr. Wieland also cashed checks his customers gave him for his services, and admitted at a court proceeding held in Adams County, Colorado, that he “cashed a check somewhere outside the box so the IRS doesn’t steal it from my bank”.

In addition to the term of imprisonment imposed, Mr. Wieland was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $166,658.

Mr. Wieland should also expect that after serving his sentence he will be dealing with the Civil Division of the IRS who will be interested in conducting a full scale civil audit.

Penalties For Failure To File A Tax Return or Filing A False Income Tax Return or Under-reporting Income.

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

Willful Failure To File – The law defines that any person who willfully fails to file a tax return as required by the Internal Revenue Code is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $25,000 ($100,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7203).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Metropolitan Los Angeles (Long Beach and Ontario) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorneys can do for you.

San Diego Crypto Currency Trader Indicted And Held Without Bond In The U.S. For Money Laundering

Do not think that just because digital exchanges are not broker-regulated by the IRS and digital exchanges are not obligated to issue a 1099 form reporting transactions, that your crypto currency transactions will always be a secret. The Federal government is cracking down on non-compliant traders.

Charges Filed Following Investigation By Federal Authorities

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District Of California (which serves San Diego) announced on August 17, 2018 in a press release that a bitcoin dealer, Jacob Burrell a/k/a Jacob Burrell Campos, was indicted for international money laundering and is being held without bond. Mr. Burrell was arrested on August 13, 2018 as he tried to enter the United States from Mexico at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

According to statements made in court by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Ciaffa in the August 17th bond hearing, Mr. Burrell was a prolific Bitcoin dealer who sold approximately $750,000 worth of Bitcoin to hundreds of buyers throughout the United States. He conducted 971 separate transactions with over 900 individual customers, and accepted cash in person, through his bank accounts, and through MoneyGram.  AUSA Ciaffa told the court that Mr. Burrell operated as a Bitcoin “exchanger” and his activities constituted a “money transmitting business”.  As such, he was required to register with the Department of Treasury, and comply with all anti-money laundering requirements, including reporting suspicious cash transactions.  In this case, Mr. Burrell accepted cash “with no questions asked” and in return for a 5% fee, supplied hundreds of individuals with an easy outlet to avoid the anti-money laundering laws applicable to all financial institutions, including licensed and registered Bitcoin exchanges.  According to AUSA Ciaffa, Mr. Burrell’s activities “blew a giant hole” through the legal framework of U.S. anti-money laundering laws by soliciting and introducing into the U.S. banking system close to $1 million in unregulated cash.    

18 U.S.C. §1956 – Laundering Of Monetary Instruments

18 U.S.C. § 1956(a) defines three types of criminal conduct: domestic money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(1)); international money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(2)); and undercover “sting” money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(3)). Crypto currency traders and marijuana-related businesses need to be aware of domestic money laundering transactions (§ 1956(a)(1)).

To be criminally culpable under 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1), a defendant must conduct or attempt to conduct a financial transaction, knowing that the property involved in the financial transaction represents the proceeds of some unlawful activity, and the property must in fact be derived from a specified unlawful activity.

Violations of § 1956 have a maximum potential 20-year prison sentence and a $500,000 fine or twice the amount involved in the transaction, whichever is greater. There is also a civil penalty provision in § 1956(b) which may be pursued as a civil cause of action. Under this provision, persons who engage in violations of any of the subsections of 1956(a) are liable to the United States for a civil penalty of not more than the greater of $10,000 or the value of the funds involved in the transaction.

Mr. Burrell is being charged with 28 counts of money laundering. Each conviction for money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and/or a $500,000 fine or twice the amount involved in the transaction, whichever is greater.

Other charges and possible punishment in the indictment include:

  • Conducting an unlicensed money transmitting business, in violation of 18 USC 1960. Statutory maximum:  Five years in prison, $250,000 fine.
  • Failing to maintain an anti-money laundering program, in violation of 18 USC 5318(h), 5322(b). Statutory maximum: Ten years in prison, $500,000 fine.
  • Conspiracy to structure international instrument transactions, in violation of 18 USC 371 and 31 USC 5324(c)(3). Statutory maximum: Five years in prison, $250,000 fine.

Indictment Culminated Investigation By Multiple Federal Agencies

The Department Of Homeland Security (Homeland Security Investigation Unit), Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service investigated this case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen S. Crawford found that Mr. Burrell had significant ties to Mexico, citizenship in three countries, no steady employment in the United States, the ability to access large sums of cash, and a disdain and unwillingness to comply with U.S. laws. She concluded at the August 17th bond hearing that Mr. Burrell posed a substantial risk of flight, and ordered him held without bail.    

Keep in mind that the charges and allegations by U.S. Attorneys’ Office are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty. However, regardless of the outcome of this indictment you can bet that Mr. Burrell will likely have to face the Civil Division of the Internal Revenue Service.

What Should You Do?

The IRS is always interested in teaming up with other Federal agencies in their investigations of non-compliance with the laws and with only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns. Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even if it is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you set up with a plan that may include being qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.

IRS Now Targeting Taxpayers With Unreported Foreign Income And Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts

IRS Targeting Taxpayers With Unreported Foreign Income And Undisclosed Foreign Bank Accounts