KPMG Tax Shelter Fraud Trial Ends With Three Tax Evasion Convictions for Accountants and Lawyer

Fraudulent tax shelters continue to be a target not only of IRS Whistleblower claims, but also of enforcement actions.

We have followed closely the KPMG tax shelter fraud case in this whistleblower lawyer blog. The trial of four defendants ended this week, with two former KPMG partners and one attorney convicted of multiple counts of tax evasion for their roles in the bogus tax shelters. Another lawyer defendant was acquitted.

Prosecutors alleged that KPMG officials offered wealthy clients illegal offshore tax shelters, and paid outside attorneys to give the bogus shelters the appearance of legitimacy. According to the government, the investments had no real risk, and generated “paper losses that allowed the accounting firm’s clients to offset income.

Through tax shelters with names such as BLIPS, FLIP and OPUS, the clients were able to claim falsely that they had taken sizeable loans to buy stock, according to the government. Clients allegedly paid fees equal to 7 percent of the amount of losses sought.

After a two month trial, former KPMG tax partner Robert Pfaff, former KPMG senior tax manager John Larson, and attorney Raymond J. Ruble were found guilty on multiple counts of tax evasion. Another former KPMG tax partner was acquitted on the five counts of tax evasion.

The accounting firm agreed two years ago to pay $456 million to resolve the allegations against the firm itself. Guilty pleas previously were entered by the government’s chief witness, David Amir Makov, former KPMG partner David Rivkin, and former HVB Group accountant Domenick DeGiorgio.

The case attracted great attention previously for Judge Lewis Kaplan’s 2007 decision to dismiss charges against 13 of the defendants. The judge ruled that the government violated these defendants’ constitutional rights when it pressured KPMG not to advance their legal fees and expenses.

As we have written about previously, accountants and lawyers elsewhere continue to face charges for their roles in promoting illegal tax shelters. Last month an Illinois CPA was charged in New York with selling an illegal tax shelter that reportedly has cost the U.S. government over $103 million. Also pending is a tax shelter case against four Ernst & Young LLP partners.