“2021’s investigative work has all the makings of a made-for-TV movie — embezzlement from a nonprofit, a family fraud ring that stole millions from COVID relief funds and a billion dollar Ponzi scheme used to buy sports teams and luxury vehicles. But this is real life and I am grateful to our IRS-CI agents for following up on these leads and ensuring that the perpetrators are prosecuted for their crimes,” said the head of the IRS-CI, Jim Lee.
The top 10 IRS-CI cases of 2021, as decided by IRS-CI, include:
Susan Harris and William Harris were sentenced to 47 and 15 years in federal prison, respectively. They stole funds from Ayudando Guardians Inc., a non-profit organization that provided guardianship, guardianship, and financial management to hundreds of people with special needs.
9. Rochester man goes to jail and is ordered to pay millions in restitution for his role in the Ponzi scheme that stole millions from investors
John Piccarreto Jr. was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution totaling $19,842,613.66 after being convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and file a false tax return. He conspired with others to get money through a Ponzi investment fraud.
Petra Gomez and her co-conspirator, her sister, Jakeline Lumucso, were sentenced to eight and four years in federal prison, respectively. They operated a tax preparation business with five locations in Central Florida that filed over 16,000 false tax returns for clients from 2012 to 2016 with an estimated total loss to the IRS of $25 million. dollars.
Oleg Tinkov, aka Oleg Tinkoff, was ordered to pay more than $248 million in taxes and sentenced to prison and a year on supervised release after renouncing his US citizenship in an attempt to cover up significant stock gains that had to be reported to the IRS after the company he founded became a multibillion-dollar publicly traded company.
6. Ontario man who ran multi-million dollar unlicensed bitcoin exchange business sentenced to 3 years in federal prison
Hugo Sergio Mejia was sentenced to three years in federal prison and had to give up all assets from running an unlicensed business that traded at least $13 million in Bitcoin and cash, and vice versa, often for drug dealers. He charged commissions on transactions and set up separate companies to hide his true business.
Rossen G. Iossifov, a Bulgarian national, was sentenced to 121 months in federal prison for participating in a scheme where popular online auction and sales websites – such as Craigslist and eBay – falsely advertised expensive goods (usually vehicles) that didn’t actually exist. Once the victims sent payment for the goods, the conspiracy engaged in a complicated money laundering scheme in which US-based associates accepted the victims’ funds, converted those funds into cryptocurrency, and transferred the cryptocurrency to overseas-based money launderers.
4. Former Orange County church pastor sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for orchestrating $33 million scam that defrauded investors
Kent RE Whitney, the ex-Church of Self-Health pastor, was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $22.66 million in restitution to victims after defrauding investors of 33 millions of dollars by orchestrating a church-based investment scam. Under his leadership, church officials appeared on television and in live seminars to make false and misleading claims to induce investors to invest in church entities. The victims sent over $33 million to the church and received fabricated monthly statements reassuring them that their funds had been invested, when in reality little or no money ever was.
Joel Tucker was sentenced to 12 years and six months in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $8 million in restitution to the IRS after selling false information or fictitious debts to payday loan companies and not have filed federal income tax returns – for himself or his businesses – with the IRS for several years.
Jeff Carpoff, the owner of California-based DC Solar, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and lost $120 million in assets to the US government for restitution to victims after creating a Ponzi scheme that involved selling thousands of manufactured mobile solar generator (MSG) units that did not exist. He committed account and rental income fraud and purchased a sports team, luxury vehicles, real estate and a NASCAR team with the proceeds.
1. San Fernando Valley family members sentenced to years in prison for fraudulently obtaining tens of millions of dollars in COVID relief
The Ayvazyan family received sentences ranging from 17.5 years in prison to 10 months probation for crimes ranging from bank and electronic fraud to aggravated identity theft. The family used stolen and fictitious identities to submit 150 fraudulent claims for COVID relief funds based on fake payroll records and tax documents to the Small Business Administration, then used the funds they received to buy luxury homes, gold coins, jewelry designer handbags and Suite. Richard Ayvazyan and his wife Terabelian cut off their ankle monitoring devices and fled ahead of their sentencing hearing; they are currently on the run.
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The IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for investigating financial crimes, including tax evasion, drug trafficking, money laundering, public corruption, fraud in health care, identity theft, etc. IRS-CI Special Agents are the only federal law enforcement officers with jurisdiction to investigate violations of the Internal Revenue Code, with a federal conviction rate of nearly 90%. The agency has 20 field offices located across the United States and 11 overseas attaché positions.