A prominent cancer researcher was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for cheating on his taxes. While most tax cheats avoid criminal prosecution and instead pay high civil penalties, Peter Urrea practically begged to be arrested.
According to court records and press reports, Peter D. Urrea, 74, of Washougal, Washington was sentenced last month to 18 months in federal prison, 3 additional years of extended supervision and $376,679 in restitution. That’s a lot of time and money, especially for a person nearing retirement.
According to the Justice Department, Urrea tried to cheat on his taxes by preparing false W2 statements purportedly issued by his employer. His goal was to make it seem like he earned less than he really did. Not satisfied to stop there, prosecutors say that he also falsified business expenses to further reduce his taxable income.
Because the employer’s real and doctored W2 forms didn’t match, the IRS began asking questions. When the original scheme failed, Urrea dug himself an even deeper hole. The IRS says he forged a letter of explanation from a company vice president. The problem was not only the forgery, the letter was authored by phony vice president that didn’t even exist.
“Instead of devoting all his energies to his cancer research, this defendant schemed to avoid paying his fair share of taxes – the very income that the government uses to fund trials and approval processes for the drugs he works to develop,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan.
It may have been possible in the early stages of the audit to avoid criminal prosecution. Lying to IRS agents and creating false documents are not only crimes themselves, they are also affirmative acts of tax evasion. In other words, Urrea made his bad situation much worse.
Is there a lesson in all this? Yes. If you know you believe you may have committed a crime or find yourself the target of tax evasion investigation, don’t represent yourself and don’t try to outsmart the IRS. That is a risky strategy that didn’t work for Peter Urrea.
The second lesson is that no one is too old or too sympathetic to avoid prosecution for tax crimes. Think this is a one time incident? Last year we wrote about a 79 year widow prosecuted by the IRS.
If you are facing a tax audit or criminal investigation for tax evasion, don’t try to outsmart the IRS. Seek an experienced criminal tax attorney immediately. Many taxpayers don’t know that making false statements to an IRS special agent or state investigator can be a crime itself. Trying to cover your tracks and get you charged with additional crimes and can also be used by the judge to enhance one’s sentence. Federal sentencing guidelines allow courts to increase a sentence if a defendant obstructed the investigation of the original violation.
For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). Our experienced IRS tax attorneys have helped people nationwide. All inquiries are kept in strict confidence and protected by the attorney-client privilege.
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