Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Yagman Pleads ‘Presumed Innocent’ to Tax Evasion
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Venice civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman offered a plea of “presumed innocent” to charges of tax evasion, bankruptcy fraud and money laundering Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
When asked to plead, Yagman read a short statement in which he labeled the charges as “politically motivated” and “retaliatory.” He did not elaborate, but Yagman has become a nationally known lawyer for plaintiffs claiming to have had their civil rights violated by the police.
He has also been involved in litigation over conditions at the military detention camp for alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, the shooting of anti-government radicals by federal agents at Ruby Ridge in Idaho, and the anti-immigration initiative, Proposition 187.
Yagman told the magistrate his plea was consistent with the legal presumption that a defendant is innocent.
Magistrate Judge Rosalyn M. Chapman said that she would enter a plea of “not guilty” for Yagman. The case was assigned to Judge Stephen V. Wilson, and set for jury trial on Aug. 15.
An indictment returned on June 1 alleges that Yagman paid only a small portion of federal income taxes which he declared on his personal tax returns for 1994 through 1997, and failed to pay federal corporate payroll taxes owed by his then-law firm Yagman & Yagman, P.C.
It accuses him of attempting to evade the payment of more than $100,000 in federal income taxes by concealing his assets and committing bankruptcy fraud. Including interest and penalties, the indictment alleges that Yagman owes more than $158,000.
Allegedly, Yagman used various bank accounts held in the name of his girlfriend to deposit his own money, including around $776,000 transferred to him by his relatives, and to conduct his own personal financial affairs.
Yagman is also accused of making fraudulent statements in personal and corporate bankruptcy cases he filed in 1999, allegedly to further impede IRS efforts to collect. He failed to disclose that he lived in a 2,800-square foot house near Venice Beach for which he made the mortgage payments and paid property taxes, and for which he deducted mortgage interest on his tax returns.
He also allegedly failed to disclose various personal and brokerage accounts which he controlled but were in his girlfriend’s name, and the receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal settlements, client payments and attorneys fees that he received in 1999 and 2000.
Yagman, who is free on $100,000 bond, faces 10 years in federal prison for each of 17 counts of money laundering. The single tax evasion and single bankruptcy fraud count each carry a maximum five-year prison term.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, told the Associated Press the office “strongly denies that this prosecution has anything to do with politics, or with any sort of retaliation.”
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company