On July 10, 2011 the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia announced that a federal grand jury has indicted Jeffrey Charles, of Mathews County, Va., for conspiring with his daughter and son-in-law to defraud the United States. The docket also indicates that a warrant has been issued in this matter.

According to the indictment, Charles conspired with his daughter and son-in-law to impair and impede the IRS in ascertaining, computing, assessing and collecting federal income taxes. The government charged this count under the general conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. 371. General conspiracy makes it a crime for two or more persons to agree to work together to commit any federal crime, so long as the participants in the conspiracy undertake any act, commonly referred to as an overt act, to further the underlying criminal activity. This overt act itself does not have to be a criminal act or illegal. Accordingly, in its indictment, the government alleges no less than 21 overt acts in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy to defraud the United States of tax revenue.

The indictment also alleges that Charles aided and assisted in the preparation of three false tax returns in his daughter’s name for tax years 2000, 2001, and 2005, and attached false documents to each tax return. The statute, 26 U.S.C. 7206(2), makes it a criminal offense for anyone to assist in the filing of a false return. The statute specifically disregards whether or not the fraudulent information or falsity was included with the knowledge or consent of the person authorized or required to present the documents to the IRS. Therefore, tax preparers can be liable for this offense even if the taxpayer himself intentionally produced false or fraudulent information. In such a scenario the tax preparer would have to demonstrate that they could not have reasonably known the information presented to them was false.

As alleged in the indictment, Charles also filed a false tax return in his own name for tax year 2006 in which he allegedly falsely reported earning $0.00 income. Since this count is with regards to Charles’ own tax return, the count is charged as 26 U.S.C. 7206(1), which targets the actual taxpayer or the person obligated to file, not the preparer.

An interesting note about this case is that according to the indictment Charles was affiliated with an organization known as the American Rights Litigators (ARL) (a.k.a. the Guiding Light of God Ministries). The organization is a tax protest group located in Lake County, Florida. As alleged in the indictment, Charles utilized materials provided by this organization to fulfill his alleged criminal endeavors.

However, it may be constitutionally improper for the government to use Charles’ affiliation with this group against him at trial. Using someone’s political affiliations against them in the court of law gets dangerously close to offending the First Amendment. Therefore, defense counsel in this matter should probably attempt to limit its usage in court and look into whether the investigation into Charles was originally initiated due to his association with this protest group.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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