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7th Circuit upholds tax, fraud conviction against attorney, wife

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the finding that a Brownsburg attorney and his wife fraudulently withheld their 2001 income from the Internal Revenue Service through an elaborate shell game.

In Scott C. Cole and Jennifer A. Cole v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, No. 10-2194, Scott and Jennifer Cole appealed the finding that they omitted more than $1.2 million of income and more than $1.3 million of self-employment income from their 2001 joint tax return and penalties imposed for fraudulently doing so. Scott, a business planning and tax attorney, formed a partnership with his attorney brother under the Bentley Group. Scott also created other entities – some owned by him and some with other family owners – and used them to transfer income.  

In 2001, Scott performed legal work on a trust that earned him $1.2 million. But instead of reporting that money, it was shifted among the various entities. The Coles underreported their income for 2001 and were eventually audited by the IRS. They petitioned the Tax Court for relief after the IRS determined they significantly underreported their income and assessed a $556,187 income tax deficiency and a $417,140 fraud penalty against the couple. The Tax Court entered a final decision upholding the deficiency and penalty amounts and also assessed an additional $178,000 in deficiency and fraud penalties.

Scott, who represented himself on appeal, only made two arguments the 7th Circuit found could be addressed: whether the Tax Court erred in finding the Coles omitted income from their 2001 tax return; and whether the Tax Court erred in imposing a fraud penalty.

The Coles were unable to produce records supporting the amounts they actually claimed on taxes and the evidence before the Tax Court showed they actually made a great deal more than they claimed, wrote Judge John Tinder. The appellate court also rejected the Coles’ argument that Scott did not actually earn the money but the Bentley Group did. They found the couple’s argument regarding the 2001 filing “only accents the game of thimblerig suggested by Scott’s legal and financial maneuvering.”

The judges also upheld the fraud penalty imposed, noting the Tax Court cited a variety of factors to show the commissioner proved with clear and convincing evidence that the couple understated their 2001 tax liabilities.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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