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Criminal Defense Blog

Civil Penalties Reduced with Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

After dealing with the IRS for almost 3 years,  I was recently successful in convincing the IRS to reduce a client's offshore penalty from 27.5% to 5%. My clients avoided the risk of going to jail for failing to file the FBAR and not declaring income on their U.S. tax returns.

After blaming Russian government for hack, officials pivot

After financial giant JPMorgan Chase & Co. was hacked last summer, bank and U.S. officials both said the computer crime was the work of the Russian government. Bloomberg News reports that in the aftermath of four recent arrests in Florida and Israel -- for securities fraud and money laundering -- that the original assessment appears to have been wrong.

While the suspects in the securities fraud arrests are allegedly linked to the hacking of JPMorgan Chase, they haven't been charged with the computer crimes.

Hastert case exposes flaws in banking laws

When the startling news broke in May that former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert had been indicted, it seemed to come out of nowhere. The soft-spoken former Speaker had been out of politics since 2007, living a quiet life as a lobbyist.

As you'll recall, Orlando news media was saturated with reports that Hastert had been indicted on suspicion of violating banking laws by illegally structuring withdrawals -- and that he had allegedly lied about the withdrawals to federal authorities. Hard on the heels of that news were revelations that Hastert had been making the withdrawals to pay off a former student who accused the politician of sexual abuse decades earlier.

Hastert has not been charged with any sexual offenses.

Emotional viral video raises a serious issue in criminal cases

When a judge is sitting in a criminal courtroom and controlling the process that will decide your fate, it is easy to forget that they also lead personal lives. Judges often live in the same community as the defendants in their courtrooms. A video recently went viral that depicted an unusual school reunion between a judge and a defendant in Florida.

It had been decades since the judge and the defendant last saw one another, but the judge tentatively recognized him as a former classmate and old friend. "Did you go to Nautilus?" she asked. When he replied in the affirmative, the man broke down in tears and she fondly told those present that the two had played football together and that he had been the "nicest kid in middle school."

Penalties for FBAR violations, willful and nonwillful

Regular readers will recall that in our previous post, we discussed a recent IRS memo in which the agency outlined penalties and processes for those U.S. taxpayers who don't file a FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts).

This time, we're going to dive into some of the numbers the IRS mentioned in the memo; dollar amounts and percentages that can be assessed against those who willfully fail to file a FBAR and those who did so nonwillfully. Those who did it nonwillfully could well be people who inherited funds held in overseas financial institutions or who simply were unaware that the reports had to be filed annually for overseas accounts holding $10,000 or more.

IRS outlines offshore accounts enforcement efforts

The Internal Revenue Service memo is written in the terse, dry voice of the bureaucrat, but its meaning becomes clear as a reader plows through it. The bottom line of the memo about FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) enforcement is that the IRS wants to improve its compliance efforts. It wants to make sure that those who have in the past failed to report assets in overseas accounts do so now, and that they pay taxes, interest and any penalties owed.

The IRS acknowledges in the memo that it carries the burden of proving that an FBAR violation took place, and when it alleges that the violation was willful, it carries the additional burden of proving that the act was indeed willful. It also describes the processes it will now go through in each open FBAR case to determine what penalties it shall impose and in which instances it will consider criminal referrals.

It's your call

Every business owner knows how tough it can be to inform Orlando residents of the existence of your services and products. Some use print media to inform consumers, other use TV, radio, the internet and some use telemarketing.

Few people truly enjoy calls from telemarketers, but clearly, if the calls didn't generate business for companies, the companies would soon stop making the calls. Unfortunately, some telemarketing firms aren't dialing people for legitimate business reasons, but are instead trying to scam folks. It's also unfortunate that legitimate telemarketing companies are tainted by association with those guilty of crimes involving misrepresentation of products or services, making false claims or otherwise defrauding consumers.

Offshore account reporting deadline looms

For expatriates, June 15 has the ominous quality that April 15 has for most other American citizens. Next week, expats have to file their annual income tax forms. About two weeks later, on June 30, another deadline looms.

On that date, all U.S. taxpayers with qualifying offshore accounts must file an FBAR -- Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FinCen Form 114). It's a day many dread and a filing activity many avoid, perhaps to their detriment.

Silence is golden

Just a short drive south of Orlando, law enforcement officials recently announced the arrests of eight men suspected of possessing and distributing child pornography. Polk County Sheriff's Computer Crimes detectives said the suspects range in age from 21 to 63.

While the allegations they face are disturbing, so too is the frequency with which the suspects discussed alleged crimes with police officers, potentially incriminating themselves. From the brief descriptions of their arrests provided by investigators, it appears that a number of them ignored their Fifth Amendment rights to refuse to self-incriminate and their rights to speak to an attorney.

Teenage prank or felony computer crime?

Most people would describe what the Florida middle-school boy did as a prank. However, law enforcement officials have arrested the 14-year-old for unauthorized access to a computer system which is a felony.

What did the eighth-grader who lives southwest of Orlando do? He got into the school computer network and onto a teacher's computer. He then changed the background image on the teacher's computer to show a photo of two men kissing. Though the student had gained access to test questions and other facets of the system, he never viewed or accessed those files, police said.

Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A.
17 East Pine Street
Orlando, FL 32801

Phone: 407-401-7224
Toll Free: 866-784-0023
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