As common as it is, tax fraud is still a shock to unsuspecting investors. In this scam, at #8 on the IRS: CI list of top litigated matters last year, a California man lived high off the investments of others for years before law enforcement moved in.
At one time, 51-year-old Christopher Burnell worked with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. When he left that employ, he began presenting himself as a successful businessman with significant largesse earned from his investments and a patent win regarding an air-cooled bullet-resistant vest. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the developing schemes of Mr. Burnell were in place between approximately November 2010 and September 2017.
Soliciting others, Mr. Burnell offered high rates of return on his investment offers. In some instances, he offered a 100 percent return on short-term high-success trial investments, convincing potentially skeptical consumers to buy in to his investment programs.
Mr. Burnell kept the scam going until he was no longer able to attract investors and the seams of his scheme started to show. With the money he collected, Mr. Burnell treated himself to a luxury lifestyle, including millions in gambling losses, trips on private jets, rental property, and luxury merchandise and cars.
Along the way, Mr. Burnell fabricated financial documents that he showed investors to prove he had the accounts to back their investments. He also filed false tax returns. When the fraud was exposed, the court records show some victims became suicidal, others lost their businesses, homes, and ability to support their children through college.
As a financial and tax crime, peddling investments on false pretenses is not new. As records go, disgraced financier Bernie Madoff swindled $64.8 billion from investors who were deep-pocketed as well as those who invested their life savings with him. Mr. Burnell’s take was $7 million, but given his willingness to take, and keep taking money from investors, the U.S. District judge who sentenced Mr. Burnell to 14 years in prison described him as “one of the most evil people that I have ever dealt with in the law.”
Whether you are involved in a simple scam or a complex Ponzi scheme, the money and opportunity are eventually replaced by arrest and prison. In addition to the next decade or so in prison, Mr. Burnell is responsible for over $7 million in restitution. Does crime pay? If that question applies to you, speak with an experienced criminal tax attorney before the IRS figures it out.
Cleveland tax lawyers provide strong representation when you face a criminal tax audit or tax controversy
The tax group at Robert J. Fedor, Esq., LLC represents business and individual clients responding to tax controversy, offshore tax allegations, or litigation over foreign bank accounts. When experienced tax advice is needed locally or internationally, call 800-579-0997 or contact us for a free consultation.