Another Tax Preparer Fraud Case

A Cincinnati man has proven there is more than one way to cheat on your taxes. And now, in addition to his huge tax debt, he has criminal charges levied against him.

Yesterday John Humphrey, III, 46, was sentenced to 12 months of home confinement and ordered to pay more than $65,000 in restitution to the IRS. Humphrey, a tax preparer by trade, pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns for both himself and his clients.

His own returns appear to be a mixed bag of illegal tax tricks:

  • 2004 – failed to report wage income
  • 2005 and 2006 – claimed niece as a dependent to claim a false exemption deduction
  • 2007 – omitted more than $100,000 in gross receipts from his business, The Tax Place
  • 2008 – claimed a false “Contract Labor” business expense

Besides the 12 months of home confinement, Mr. Humphrey will also have 3 years of probation and will likely have to find a new profession. His sentencing included a prohibition from preparing his own tax return and from working at a tax preparation firm.

Another Co-conspirator in the Madoff Scheme

Today Enrica Cotellessa-Pitz, Bernie Madoff’s former controller, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, falsifying books and records, and making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. She could spend up to 50 years in prison.

Cotellessa-Pitz said she started working at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in 1978 while she was studying economics in college. She was named controller in late 1998. She said Madoff and others within months were directing her to put false entries in the company’s books to make it appear profitable trades were being made and that losses were not incurred.

~ LARRY NEUMEISTER, The Associated Press

She also helped Madoff’s organization reduce its tax liabilities by underreporting income to the IRS. Madoff’s own 2004 tax return was audited when he underreported by millions of dollars. And then when faced with audits, Cotellessa-Pitz perpetuated the fraud by providing false information to the SEC and the IRS.

Does the IRS View Marion Barry as a “Special Circumstance”?

Former D.C. mayor, Marion Barry, is in the news today because of a lien that the IRS filed against him in connection with a measly $3,200 in unpaid 2010 taxes.

Remember back in February of this year when the IRS announced it was going to provide taxpayers with special tax relief during these trying financial times? The IRS dubbed it the “Fresh Start” initiative. Remember when I blogged in June about the uncertainties of the program and how the IRS still had not clarified some major points? Remember what I said about the new lien filing procedures; how the lien filing threshold was reduced from $10,000 to $5,000 in most cases? According to the IRS website:

The Fresh Start changes increase the IRS lien filing threshold from $5,000 to $10,000. Liens may still be filed on amounts less than $10,000 when circumstances warrant. (emphasis added)


So, why did the IRS file a lien if the balance is under $5,000? Well, it appears that Barry’s 2010 liability is only the tip of the iceberg. He still owes for prior years, for which he is on an installment agreement in good standing, according to Barry’s official statement. It appears that the IRS will be looking at the overall balance in determining whether to file a lien, even under Fresh Start. At least that’s one possible explanation. The other possibility is that the IRS would have filed a lien on Barry even if $3,200 were all he owed . . . because circumstances warrant it. Let’s face it, he’s a public figure sitting on a Finance Committee in D.C, in charge of public funds, and he has a colorful history of corruption and tax delinquencies. If that isn’t a special circumstance, then I don’t know what is.


If you’ve ever stumbled upon the TMZ website, you know how they love to expose celebrity tax problems.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say they have some secret relationship with the IRS.  I mean, what a huge benefit to the IRS to have these cases all over the internet where people can see them.

A quick perusal of the TMZ website reveals the tax issues (past and present) of the following celebs:

  1. Christie Brinkley
  2. Bow Wow
  3. Chris Tucker
  4. Sandra Oh
  5. Al Pacino
  6. The Osbournes
  7. Nicolaus Cage
  8. Val Kilmer
  9. Toni Braxton

The list goes on and on.  My apologies if this blog is starting to look TMZ-ish, but celebrities just can’t stay out of tax trouble.  As their fame (and income) start to slide, they find themselves overextended and tax bills often go unpaid. Besides, I do think it is constructive to call out the celebs, especially if it gets us to ponder our own spending habits and live more frugally.