A jury convicted Stephen M. Kerr and Michael Quiel yesterday on federal tax charges stemming from their failure to disclose secret offshore bank accounts in Switzerland, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced. Kerr and Quiel, prominent Phoenix businessmen, were each convicted of two counts of filing false individual income tax returns for 2007 and 2008 . Kerr was also convicted of two counts of failing to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). San Diego attorney Christopher M. Rusch had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and failing to file an FBAR on Feb. 6, 2013.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Kerr and Quiel, with the assistance of Rusch and others, including Swiss nationals, established nominee foreign entities and corresponding bank accounts at UBS AG and Pictet & Cie to conceal Kerr and Quiel’s ownership and control of stock and income that were deposited into these accounts. Rusch testified at trial, admitting that he and others caused the sale of the shares of stock through the undeclared accounts . Kerr also hired Rusch to facilitate the domestic sale of 11.4 million shares of stock held in the name of a foreign entity controlled by Kerr and to transfer the proceeds from the sale of the stock to an undeclared foreign account at UBS AG to conceal that the money was income to Kerr that should have been reported on his tax returns.
The evidence established that in order to create a further layer of separation between Kerr and Quiel and the income they concealed in the undeclared foreign accounts, they directed Rusch to transfer some of the money in the undeclared accounts back to the United States through Rusch’s Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Account (IOLTA) before dispersing the money for Kerr and Quiel’s benefit. Rusch transferred approximately $2,000,000 through his IOLTA account so that Kerr could purchase a golf course in Erie, Colo. Additionally, after transferring approximately $955,000 from Quiel’s undeclared foreign accounts to his IOLTA account, at Quiel’s direction, Rusch wrote checks payable to an Arizona bank account owned and controlled by Quiel.
According to trial evidence, Kerr and Quiel filed false tax returns with the IRS that failed to report the proceeds of stock sales, interest and dividend income earned through the secret accounts, and further failed to report that they had a financial interest in bank accounts located in Switzerland. Kerr also failed to file FBARs in 2007 and 2008 that reported his offshore accounts to the IRS. Accountants for Kerr and Quiel testified that neither Kerr nor Quiel disclosed the existence of their offshore accounts in Switzerland during the preparation of their tax returns.
“Many investigations are underway and focusing upon an ever wider circle of banks worldwide, their clients and others who would help the clients try to hide income and assets offshore,” said Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division Kathryn Keneally. “The lesson of today’s guilty verdicts is that no hiding place will prove safe enough.”
“This prosecution serves notice that the Department of Justice will not tolerate fraudulent activity designed to undermine the integrity of our income tax system,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona John S. Leonardo.
“Clients, as well as promoters, of international tax fraud are under the watchful scrutiny of the IRS.” said Richard Weber, Chief, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “Mr. Kerr and Mr. Quiel disregarded their legal responsibility to file true and accurate tax returns reporting all their income and interest. They now face substantial monetary penalties and the risk of incarceration.”
U.S. citizens who have an interest in, or signature or other authority over, a financial account in a foreign country with assets in excess of $10,000 are required to disclose the existence of such accounts on Schedule B, Part III, of their individual income tax returns. Additionally, U.S. citizens must file an FBAR with the U.S. Treasury disclosing any financial account in a foreign country with assets in excess of $10,000 in which they have a financial interest, or over which they have signature or other authority.
Sentencing for Kerr and Quiel is scheduled for June 25, 2013. Sentencing for Rusch is scheduled for July 17, 2013.
Department of Justice Tax Division Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally thanked special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, who provided valuable assistance in conducting the investigation, and Trial Attorneys Timothy Stockwell and Monica Edelstein who prosecuted the case.