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Legislator facing federal prison after tax fraud guilty plea

A New England legislator convicted recently of tax crimes says that he is remorseful of his actions -- but he and his business partner could still receive up to eight years each in federal prison for their actions when they are sentenced later this year. The legislator pleaded guilty to tax fraud and conspiracy in federal court late last month.

According to federal prosecutors, the two men defrauded the government to the tune of half a million dollars by filing false returns for their business, which was in the insurance industry. The men inflated business expenses in order to reduce their income and also cashed checks not at a bank but rather at a check-cashing business in order to further underreport their income.

Each of the men now faces a lengthy prison term as well as having to pay back taxes and fines over the incident. The legislator has been a Rhode Island state representative for 22 years, but he is not running for re-election now.

The representative told the judge at the hearing that he is being treated for mental illness and is currently on medication to combat depression and anxiety. However, the legislator declined to blame his behavior on his illness or say that it interfered with his current state of mind: The judge asked him if his condition or treatment disabled him from understanding his guilty plea, but he said that they did not.

This case shows that nobody -- including public officials -- is immune to prosecution on tax fraud charges if federal authorities have enough evidence to charge them. People in Massachusetts who think they may be the target of an IRS investigation can consult with an experienced tax attorney to ensure that their rights are maintained.

Source: Associated Press, "RI lawmaker pleads guilty to tax fraud charges," David Klepper, Sept. 28, 2012

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