TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) often includes in its semiannual report to Congress highlights of the past 6 months and high profile cases that the agency has resolved. The most recent semiannual report tells of the bribery of an IRS Revenue Agent by the owner of a seafood company in Louisiana.
An unnamed IRS agent paid a visit to Vihn Q. Tran, the owner of St. Vincent Seafood Co. in Louisiana, back in August 2007 with the intent to schedule an in-person audit of his books. At that first encounter Tran offered to take the agent to lunch and also dropped a hint that he was hoping for some special treatment when he told the agent, “I’ll take good care of you.” The IRS agent declined these initial offers, but then in subsequent meetings accepted 75 pounds of jumbo shrimp and $6,000 cash. In April 2011 Tran confessed to the crime. In January 2012 he pled guilty to bribery of a public official, and he was sentenced to three-years’ probation this past March.
TIGTA’s report does not specify, but it appears to me that the IRS agent was culpable at least for violating the guidelines set forth in the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM). According to IRM section 188.8.131.52.3, IRS employees are required to do the following when presented with a bribe:
- Avoid any statement or implication that you will or will not accept the bribe.
- Attempt to hold the matter in abeyance.
- Report the matter immediately to the Inspector General Special Agent.
- Avoid any unnecessary discussions of the matter with anyone.
Unless some key facts are being left out of this report, it does not appear that the agent complied with these rules. By accepting the cash and the shrimp, the agent violated the first two rules, and although the agent must have reported the bribes at some point, it does not appear that he did so immediately.
As for Mr. Tran, I would guess that he has since gone out of business. It looks like his tax problems were just one of a variety of issues he had been dealing with as a business owner. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent him a letter in 2002 pointing out some “serious deviations” from federal seafood regulations, one of which had to do with, not surprisingly, record-keeping.