A former client of Credit Suisse Group AG who pleaded guilty to hiding $200 million from U.S. tax authorities is at the center of a struggle between the Justice Department, which wants to send a stern message by sending tax cheats to prison, and U.S. judges, who have opted for leniency in past cases.
Dan Horsky, a retired business professor from Rochester, New York, pleaded guilty Nov. 4 to using secret Swiss bank accounts to hide assets and income from the Internal Revenue Service and New York tax authorities. Prosecutors urged a judge to send him to prison for 20 months. Horsky’s lawyers said he deserves probation because he helped with a criminal investigation of the bank and will pay at least $124 million in penalties.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III is set to impose a sentence on Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Dozens of wealthy U.S. tax defendants who used offshore accounts have avoided prison or received terms far below those recommended by advisory guidelines, as judges have consistently ruled against Justice Department prosecutors.
What sets apart tax cheats who use offshore accounts from other felons is often the large checks they write in back taxes, fines and penalties. In Horsky’s case, he’s paying at least $124 million, and could pay more. Prosecutors don’t want that to be a get-out-of-jail-free card.
“While the numbers are quite large, they reflect the enormous scope of the crime Horsky committed,” prosecutors wrote in a Feb. 6 memo to the judge. “By any terms, even after making those payments, the defendant possesses extraordinary wealth. A sentence of incarceration is necessary in order to dispel any indication that one’s freedom can be purchased by paying the government the money it was owed.”