Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Federal Judge Sentences Former Commissioner Tony Luna to Prison
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A suspended Montebello attorney—formerly a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner—yesterday was sentenced to one year in federal prison for tax fraud, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California has announced.
Tony Antonio Luna, 72, was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson to serve six months of home detention following his release from prison, pay a $40,000 fine, perform 50 hours of community service, and pay all back taxes due to the Internal Revenue Service. He did not return a message seeking comment yesterday.
Luna pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to structure cash transactions and one count of subscribing to a false tax return in March, before U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank.
He had faced up to eight years in prison.
Prosecutors accused Luna of having funneled more than $300,000 in cash through seven different bank accounts in amounts of less than $10,000 to evade federal reporting requirements with the assistance of his daughter—Dianne Sanchez, also known as Dianne Luna Mejia—and brother—Fred Luna. He also allegedly stashed money in several safety deposit boxes until it could be inconspicuously deposited in the accounts.
At one point, prosecutors claimed, when Luna and his daughter tried to make multiple cash deposits of $7,000 each into U.S. Bank’s South Pasadena branch, a teller requested information to satisfy the reporting requirements of the institution. Luna then canceled the transaction, telling the teller words to the effect that he wouldn’t bother, because the government always tried to take his money.
The money came from payments for Luna’s legal services and rental payments on properties he owned, according to court documents. Luna also admitted that he had reported gross receipts or returns of $104,225 in his 2008 tax return, understating his federal income tax liability by $66,529.
As part of his plea agreement, Luna agreed to forfeit approximately a quarter million dollars seized by authorities last year, including $130,000 in a U.S. Bank account and $54,708 in cash that was found at his Montebello residence.
Agrees to Cooperate
Luna also agreed to cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service, which has determined that Luna owes back taxes totaling $118,826 for the 2007 and 2008 tax years. Luna was ordered today to file tax returns for the years 2009 and 2010.
The State Bar suspended Luna in June, but prosecutors point out in a sentencing memo that Luna “appears to be actively practicing law on a suspended license.”
Luna’s daughter has pled guilty to the conspiracy charge and Luna’s brother has admitted to a single count of structuring financial transactions.
The investigation of the case was conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Department.
Luna attended California State University, Los Angeles and graduated from law school at UCLA before joining the State Bar in 1974.
He began his career with the Los Angeles Public Defender’s office, and spent 10 years in private practice before becoming a commissioner of the East Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1990.
State Bar records indicate that Luna received a private reproval with public disclosure in 1992, but he had no other record of discipline until his most recent suspension.
Luna made an unsuccessful bid for a judgeship in the East Los Angeles court, losing to now-Superior Court Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon in 1996. He became a Superior Court commissioner due to unification in January 2000 and retired in July 2001.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company