Two recent verdicts involving unreported foreign asset reporting highlight the same moral: do the right thing (or go to jail).
In one case, Michael Canale, a physician, pleaded guilty in New York federal court last December to willful failure to notify the IRS about Swiss bank accounts that in 2010 held nearly $1.5 million. While acknowledging that Canale “made a serious mistake,” attorney Robert Fink wrote that his client inherited the account from his father, who gave orders to keep it a secret. The defense lawyer characterized Canale as “a genuine American hero, who served his country selflessly as a combat military doctor”. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office argued, however, that he evaded at least $216,000 in federal taxes on income form the Swiss accounts and “he could have, at any time, ceased his criminal conduct by disclosing the account or even simply closing the account.” Canale was sentenced to six months in federal prison, fined $100,000, ordered to pay more than $216,000 in restitution and perform 400 hours of community service.
About 1,200 miles away, in West Palm Beach Florida, a woman named Mary Estelle Curran pleaded guilty in January to filing two years of false tax returns on a UBS account that concealed up to $43 million from the IRS. Curran, like Canale, inherited the account. Unlike Canale, however, she actually hired an attorney in 2008 with the aim of coming clean when she became aware of her obligation to report the foreign account. The attorney delayed for approximately one month, the month during which UBS handed her information over to the IRS. While Curran did have to pay steep penalties, she was not sentenced to any jail time.