Monday, June 09, 2014

185-month Sentence Affirmed for Fake CPA

US v. Weiss: Weiss ran a "professional employer organization" for ten years in North Carolina, providing "human resource functions, including payroll processing, for companies through employee leasing agreements."  During that time, he falsely held himself out to be a CPA.  Over that time, he pocketed funds from companies that should have been paid to the IRS, state tax authorities, and workers' compensation insurance companies.  All told, Weiss diverted to his own use nearly $5 million.  He also filed false personal income tax returns, underpaying more than $1 million in taxes.  He also used false tax returns to secure bank loans to finance the construction of a new home.  Finally, he filed false insurance claims for jewelry he had reported stolen, but were recovered in his home pursuant to a search by law enforcement.  For all his trouble, Weiss pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud, money laundering, making false loan statements, and tax evasion.  He was sentenced to 185 months in prison.

Weiss challenged his sentence on appeal, arguing it was procedurally unreasonable for several reasons, all of which Fourth Circuit rejected.  First, the court upheld the imposition of a two-level enhancement for abuse of a position of trust, concluding that Weiss's holding himself out as a CPA, even if he was not acting as an accountant for his victims, nonetheless aided his scheme because it led the victims to reasonable believe he had a special skill that would aid his job performance.  Second, the court upheld the loss calculation, concluding that the district court correctly included the amount Weiss obtained by not accurately reporting his taxed with the loss amounts from the other schemes.  Finally, the court concluded that the failure of the district court to sua sponte appoint experts to assist in his defense at sentencing was, at the very least, not plain error, if it was error at all.

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