California Attorney Sentenced for Helping Clients Conceal Money in Swiss Accounts

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The U.S. Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that California attorney Christopher M. Rusch has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for helping his clients evade tax by hiding millions of dollars in secret offshore bank accounts. The IRS traced the accounts to UBS AG and Pictet & Cie in Switzerland.

Besides 10 months in prison, U.S. District Judge James A. Teilborg also ordered Rusch to serve three years of supervised release after his prison term was over. Rusch had pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to defraud the government and failing to file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). His clients, Stephen Kerr and Michael Quiel, both businessmen from Phoenix, were sentenced last year to 10 months in prison after they were convicted of filing false income tax returns for 2007 and 2008.

According to court documents, Kerr and Quiel, with the assistance of Rusch and others, including Swiss nationals, established nominee foreign entities and corresponding bank accounts in Switzerland to conceal their ownership and control of stock and income. At trial, Rusch testified that he and others caused the sale of the shares of stock through the undeclared accounts. Rusch further testified that at the direction of Kerr and Quiel he had transferred some of the money in the secret accounts back to the United States through Rusch's Interest on Lawyer's Trust Account before dispersing the money for Kerr and Quiel's benefit. Also, for his clients, he purchased a multi-million dollar golf course in Erie, Colorado.

The evidence shows that with the help of the attorney, the two businessmen, had concealed from the IRS more than $4,600,000 and $2,000,000 of income respectively, during 2007 and 2008. They held the money in undeclared accounts with the help of their attorney, Rusch.

"We are getting more and more information all the time about offshore banking activities," said Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally for the Tax Division. "We are committed to investigating and prosecuting those who continue to evade taxes and reporting requirements. As these sentences show, those who fail to come into compliance risk high penalties and jail."

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