Thursday, December 16, 2010

Former IRS Agent Sentenced for Soliciting a Bribe

Earlier today in federal court in St. Paul, a tax revenue agent with the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") was sentenced for soliciting and receiving a $9,700 bribe. United States District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson sentenced Roger Anthony Coombs, age 41, of Circle Pines, to 33 months in federal prison on one count of soliciting and agreeing to receive a bribe. In imposing the sentence, Judge Magnuson put all federal workers on notice: "I want everyone who draws a federal paycheck to know that if they solicit a bribe, they are going to jail."

Coombs was indicted on June 21, 2010, and pleaded guilty on August 19, 2010. In his plea agreement, he admitted that on May 8, 2010, he solicited a $9,700 bribe from the owners of a small Minnesota business. In exchange for the money, Coombs agreed to report a lower federal tax obligation than was actually owed by the business. Coombs also admitted receiving payments toward the bribe on May 19 and June 2, 2010.

Following today's sentencing, Ralph Boelter, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Minneapolis field office, said, "Rooting out public corruption is one the FBI's highest priorities. Corruption committed by government employees or public officials will not be tolerated and will be vigorously investigated. Public corruption erodes public confidence and undermines the strength of our democracy. Like many of our investigations, this case started with a tip from a concerned citizen. We are always grateful for those who come forward to report corruption." The FBI led the investigation in this case.

A law enforcement affidavit filed in the case states that Coombs, who began working for the IRS in June of 2009, routinely audited individuals and entities to determine if accurate reports of tax liabilities had been submitted by them to the federal government. On May 6, 2010, Coombs met with the two owners of a small Minnesota company for that purpose. The meeting was held at the office of the company's accountant, but while the accountant was out of the room, Coombs suggested that he and the owners meet elsewhere, unaccompanied by the accountant. As a result, another meeting was scheduled for May 8.

Because of his concerns about Coombs, one of the business owners secretly recorded the May 8 meeting, during which Coombs reported that the business owed the IRS approximately $60,000. He went on to say, however, he could make the situation more "manageable." He explained he could alter aspects of the audit so the IRS would accept $11,000 if the business owners paid him $9,700 personally in return. A subsequent meeting was then scheduled for May19, at which Coombs was to receive partial payment toward the bribe.

Prior to that meeting, the business owners reported Coombs's actions to authorities. Therefore, on May 19, investigators were present to see Coombs accept $3,000 in payment toward the bribe. After receiving the money, Coombs informed the business owner he had taken care of things at the IRS. The two men then arranged yet another meeting, scheduled for June 2, for payment of the balance of the bribe. On June 2, 2010, after Coombs received the final payment of $6,700, he was arrested without incident.

In addition to the FBI, this case was investigated by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General- Tax Administration. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy L. Perzel and Joe Dixon.

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