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. Great observation Smith. By my lights, speaking personally, they already have. They counted my religious perspective in a pro-life context as a symptom of mental illness and then violated all semblance of due process to banish me for life from the Indiana bar. The headline reveals the truth of the Hoosier elite's animus. Details here: Denied 2016 petition for cert (this time around): (“2016Pet”) Amicus brief 2016: (“2016Amici”) As many may recall, I was banned for five years for failing to "repent" of my religious views on life and the law when a bar examiner demanded it of me, resulting in a time out to reconsider my "clinging." The time out did not work, so now I am banned for life. Here is the five year time out order: Denied 2010 petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): (“2010Pet”) Read this quickly if you are going to read it, the elites will likely demand it be pulled down or pile comments on to bury it. (As they have buried me.)

  2. if the proabortion zealots and intolerant secularist anti-religious bigots keep on shutting down every hint of religious observance in american society, or attacking every ounce of respect that the state may have left for it, they may just break off their teeth.

  3. "drug dealers and traffickers need to be locked up". "we cannot afford just to continue to build prisons". "drug abuse is strangling many families and communities". "establishing more treatment and prevention programs will also be priorities". Seems to be what politicians have been saying for at least three decades now. If these are the most original thoughts these two have on the issues of drug trafficking and drug abuse, then we're no closer to solving the problem than we were back in the 90s when crack cocaine was the epidemic. We really need to begin demanding more original thought from those we elect to office. We also need to begin to accept that each of us is part of the solution to a problem that government cannot solve.

  4. What is with the bias exclusion of the only candidate that made sense, Rex Bell? The Democrat and Republican Party have created this problem, why on earth would anyone believe they are able to fix it without pushing government into matters it doesn't belong?

  5. This is what happens when daddy hands over a business to his moron son and thinks that everything will be ok. this bankruptcy is nothing more than Gary pulling the strings to never pay the creditors that he and his son have ripped off. they are scum and they know it.