Thursday, July 28, 2016
Ninth Circuit Upholds Sacramento Lawyer’s Conviction on Tax Evasion Charges
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed the conviction of a suspended Sacramento-area attorney on multiple tax-related charges.
The panel rejected Donald M. Wanland Jr.’s claims, including his arguments that the charges were time-barred and that the discharge of his tax debts in bankruptcy barred the criminal prosecution on res judicata grounds.
Wanland, now 58, is serving a 46-month sentence for crimes that included tax evasion, failing to file tax returns, and removing, depositing, and concealing assets from the IRS in defiance of a levy. According to Bureau of Prisons records, Wanland, who has been in custody since his 2013 conviction, is scheduled for release from a Sacramento halfway house in January.
He has been on interim suspension from the State Bar since 2014. He reportedly said at his sentencing that the crimes were driven by “greed, selfishness, and contempt.”
The government said Wanland, once the majority owner of a thriving civil practice, concealed the bank accounts that he used to receive and spend his income, and then filed no tax returns at all for years 2004 through 2007, yet earned more than $1 million total during those years.
When the IRS placed levies on his income in April 2005, Wanland allegedly defied the levies by continuing to funnel his income to the concealed accounts. He spent the money on various luxuries, including ski trips, automobiles, gambling, limousines, and a swimming pool at his El Dorado Hills home.
Wanland argued that the concealment charges were untimely because they were brought more than three years after the crimes were allegedly committed.
But Judge John Owens, writing for the panel, said that while the three-year statute cited by the defense applied to tax crimes generally, Wanland’s offenses were governed by a special six-year statute.
That statute, the judge explained, is 28 U.S.C. §6531(1), which says that tax offenses “involving the defrauding or attempting to defraud” the government have a six-year statute of limitations. “Section 6531(1), by its own terms, does not require that a defendant be expressly indicted for tax fraud,” he noted.
Taking direct action to avoid a tax liability, as Wanland did by concealing assets subject to levy, “is exactly the type of ‘defrauding’ that section 6531(1) was intended to cover,” the judge said.
Nor did res judicata apply, Owens said, because the IRS, when it seeks to block discharge of liabilities in bankruptcy, and the Justice Department, when it prosecutes crimes, are not in privity.
Owens was joined by Senior Judges J. Clifford Wallace and Mary M. Schroeder.
The case is United States v. Wanland, 14-10170.
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