Gary Howard writes for “AICPA Insights” blog

Time is Running Out — Verify Your Clients’ FBAR Obligations Now: In a June 13, 2013 blog for “AICPA Insights,” Gary Howard pointed out the importance of filing a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts on a timely basis. Civil penalties for failure to file are huge – they range from $10,000 up to $100,000 or 50% of the total foreign account balance. Criminal penalties include $250,000 or five years of imprisonment or both. (Read the full article)

Recent Engagement: Acquittal in high-profile Hawaii tax fraud and conspiracy case
Gary Howard serves as forensic accountant expert

On March 20, 2013, the Federal District Court for the District of Hawaii acquitted James Pflueger, a retired automobile dealer, on all of the four counts of the indictment alleging tax fraud and conspiracy following a two and one half week trial. At the Government’s request the Court previously dismissed the additional count against him alleging a willful failure to file a foreign bank account reporting form (FBAR).

Mr. Pflueger’s defense trial team was led by Steven Toscher of Hochman, Salkin Rettig Toscher and Perez, PC in Beverly Hills, CA and included Edward M. Robbins, Jr., Lacey Strachan, Kurt Kawafuchi, Richard Speier, and Gary Howard, CPA. Mr. Robbins is the former Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Tax Division in Los Angeles, CA. Mr. Kawafuchi is the former Director of the State of Hawaii Department of Taxation. Mr. Speier, who served as the expert summary witness, is the former Deputy Chief of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, DC. Mr. Howard was the testifying forensic accountant on behalf of Mr. Pflueger.

The criminal indictment centered around IRS allegations that Mr. Pflueger engaged in conspiracies with his accountant and others to defraud the Government relating to his personal taxes as well as those of his son and his former auto dealership, including the use of a foreign bank account and a foreign trust. Others included in the indictment previously pled guilty; his former accountant testified at trial as a cooperating witness for the Government.

The District Court found that the Government failed to establish the evidence supporting the allegations and acquitted Mr. Pflueger of all charges.

The defense team praised the Court for not being persuaded by unsupported allegations and innuendos presented by the Government during the trial. Steven Toscher, speaking on behalf of the defense team and James Pflueger stated “Mr. Pflueger is innocent of all the charges. The verdict acquitting Mr. Pflueger of all charges is a tribute to our system of justice demonstrating that notwithstanding the almost unbridled power and unlimited resources of the federal government to accuse, they sometimes wrongly accuse without sufficient evidence.”

Mr. Toscher acknowledged that the Government rarely loses criminal tax prosecutions. This is believed to be the first unsuccessful prosecution relating to the use of foreign bank accounts in the Government’s ongoing international enforcement efforts. The Government must objectively and carefully select the cases to prosecute – the mere presence of a foreign bank account and foreign trust does mean there has been a tax crime – an assumption which seemed to blindly guide the prosecution of Mr. Pflueger, an innocent man.

(News release data courtesy of Hochman Salkin Rettig Toscher and Perez, PC)

Recent Case – Game machine provider — Tribe breached contract:

In this matter, Sharp Image Gaming Inc. v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians,the defendant was accused of failure to honor a lease commitment for personal property related to the gaming industry.

G.L. Howard, CPA was asked by plaintiff to assess calculate damages, working with DLA Piper LLP’s Sacramento office in this matter brought before the Superior Court of El Dorado County.

The Result:

The jury found for Sharp Image and awarded $30,442,964 in total damages, which included $20,398,858 for the tribe’s breach of the equipment lease agreement and $10,044,106 for the tribe’s breach of the promissory note.