A federal grand jury in Charlotte, North Carolina returned an indictment today charging two tax attorneys and an insurance agent with conspiring to defraud the United States and helping clients file false tax returns based on their promotion and operation of a fraudulent tax shelter.
According to the indictment, from 2011 to the present Michael Elliott Kohn and Catherine Elizabeth Chollet, both attorneys and residents of St. Louis, Missouri, and David Shane Simmons, a licensed insurance agent and broker based out of Jefferson, North Carolina, conspired to defraud the United States by promoting, marketing, and selling to clients a fraudulent tax scheme known as the Gain Elimination Plan (“GEP”). The defendants allegedly designed the GEP to conceal clients’ income from the IRS by fraudulently inflating business expenses through fictitious royalties and management fees. These fictitious royalties and management fees allegedly were paid, on paper, to a limited partnership largely owned by a charitable organization. In reality, Kohn and Chollet allegedly fabricated the royalties and management fees. In total, the defendants allegedly caused a tax loss to the IRS of tens of millions of dollars.
The indictment further alleges that Kohn and Simmons engaged in a scheme to defraud an insurance company by providing false information on insurance applications on behalf of their clients. The false information allegedly included fraudulent representations concerning the clients’ financials and the purpose of the insurance policies. In total, Kohn and Simmons allegedly caused the insurance company to issue more than $200 million in insurance policies based on false application information. Simmons allegedly earned large commissions for selling the insurance policies, many of which he split with Kohn and Chollet. Simmons also allegedly filed false personal tax returns by underreporting his business income and inflating his business expenses.
If convicted, Kohn, Chollet, and Simmons each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison for conspiring to defraud the United States and three years in prison for each of multiple counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns. Kohn and Simmons both also face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud, and Simmons faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison for several counts of filing false personal tax returns, if convicted. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and U.S. Attorney Dena J. King for the Western District of North Carolina made the announcement.
IRS-Criminal Investigation is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Kevin Schneider and Todd Ellinwood of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Caryn Finley of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina are prosecuting the case.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.