Politicians Behaving Badly
Ernie Neve, CPA
January 18, 2017
(Hard to believe, right?)
Last week, we presented three stories from the IRS Criminal Investigation unit's most recent annual report outlining their work to protect the Treasury's revenue from grifters, cheats, and cons. It's a "true crime" fan's favorite IRS report that puts TV cop dramas to shame. I received a great deal of positive feedback last week so I decided to share a few more stories!
Most public servants are as honest and dedicated as we could want them to be. But some find ways to use their positions for more "entrepreneurial" pursuits. That's why the CI unit pursues public officials for offenses like bribery, extortion, embezzlement, and money laundering, too, not just tax fraud. Here are three stories of politicians who really should have known better:
• George Gallo earned $150,000 per year as chief of staff to the Connecticut House of Representatives' minority leader, where he helped his party's members spot opportunities to advance their interests through the legislature. Along the way, he spotted a way to steer campaign funds to a friendly Florida direct-mail consultant in exchange for $117,226 in kickbacks. Hey, he even paid his tax on the money! Unfortunately, while that may have helped avoid tax-fraud charges, it couldn't save him from a year and a day in federal prison for mail fraud.
• Barry Robinson ran the Baltimore Department of Transportation's Division of Transit and Marine Services, where he found nontraditional opportunities to supplement his city pension. First he found a vendor who placed advertising on the city's free "Charm City Circulator" bus, and made him an offer he could hardly refuse: pay the city the $60,000 he owed, or pay him just $20,000 in cash. That worked well enough that he took a $70,000 bribe from a Canadian company for the right to buy 13 city-owned bus shelters. Like his colleague Gallo in Connecticut, Robinson's efforts ultimately landed him a year and a day in jail.
• Louis "Lolo" Willis was Executive Director of the U.S. Virgin Islands legislature, where he oversaw renovating the legislature's historic building overlooking the harbor in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. You might think that serving the citizens of a paradise like the Virgin Islands would be its own reward. But of course you would be wrong — Willis used his position to squeeze $13,000 in bribes out of the contractors working on the building. Now Willis gets to spend five years in a very different sort of government building, one with no historic interest or harbor views at all.
If there's any silver lining to these stories, it may be this. We live in an era of unprecedented partisanship, with Democrats and Republicans lobbing "fake news" across the aisle and ducking compromise like a zombie ducks sunlight. It's good to know that even in today's toxic environment, our officials can find at least one thing to agree on. It's just too bad that one thing is graft!
We know you don't like paying taxes. But you don't have to break the rules to get ahead like these guys tried. Just call us, and we'll help you investigate opportunities that don't risk time in a small gray room. And remember, we're here for your bagmen and accomplices family, friends, and colleagues, too! And if you already have an IRS problem we can solve it.