Thursday, January 27, 2011

'Tax doctor' gets 14 years in jail

A West Chester tax preparer, who styled himself the "tax doctor" but who federal prosecutors say operated a business that helped customers cheat Uncle Sam, was sentenced yesterday to more than 14 years in federal prison.

Lawrence Murray, 72, has been in federal custody since he was convicted in October of conspiracy, assisting in the filing of false tax returns and related offenses.

U.S. District Judge Petrese Tucker also ordered Murray to make restitution of more than $3.3 million.

Defense attorney Jack Meyerson had sought leniency for Murray based on his medical condition and age. (Murray suffers from skin cancer and kidney disease, Meyerson said.)

Murray apologized to the court, but Tucker wasn't impressed.

"I don't think Mr. Murray regrets being involved in criminal activity," she said. "I think Mr. Murray regrets being caught."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Zack said Murray was a "hardened criminal" who had "victimized" taxpayers for years and believed that he was above the law.

Meyerson offered a novel rationale for leniency, saying that family members would tend to his health needs and that if Murray were sentenced to a long prison term taxpayers would be needlessly burdened by having to pay for his health care.

Zack said that in recorded conversations, Murray told undercover agents that he was healthy enough to get married to a woman half his age, was "on call" 24 hours a day to assist clients and was able to supervise dozens of employees.

Authorities said that between 2005 and January 2010, Murray prepared hundreds of fraudulent tax returns. Murray charged clients between 20 and 35 percent of the money that they would save if they followed his tax-fraud scheme.

The feds said he used a variety of methods to commit tax fraud, including setting up shell corporations that incurred fictitious management fees or "contracted services," understating taxpayers' income and deducting personal expenses by claiming they were business expenses.

Murray, who previously was convicted in federal court for tax fraud in 1989, authored a self-published book in 1993 called "Powerful Tax Saving Strategies For Honest People."

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