ILNews

Tax fraud lands attorney in prison

IL Staff
January 1, 2008
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An Indianapolis personal injury lawyer will spend time in prison for committing tax fraud by underreporting his income.

U.S. District Judge Larry J. McKinney of the Southern District's Indianapolis Division sentenced Robert E. Lehman to eight months in prison and six months of home detention after he pleaded guilty to making a false federal income tax return.

Lehman filed false personal income tax returns with the IRS in 2002, 2003, and 2004, by understating his business income. When he paid his clients from his firm's trust account, Lehman would cut two checks payable to the client. Then, he directed the client to endorse one check to him; these checks represented fees or income to Lehman's law practice. The firm would treat both of the checks as made payable to the client as cost of goods sold, so his net income was falsely underreported.

Over the course of three years, Lehman underpaid more than $100,000 in federal income tax.

Lehman also will have one year of supervised release after his imprisonment. He also was fined $10,000. Lehman has paid $236,000 back to the IRS for tax, penalties, and interest.

Lehman has been in trouble in the past. Last year, he was suspended from practicing law for 120 days for trying to have opposing counsel agree to a continuance of a trial in exchange for Lehman's client not filing a complaint against the opposing counsel.

In 2004, he received a public reprimand from the Indiana Supreme Court for showing written jury witness questions to his witness over objections from opposing counsel and before the judge ruled on the issue, causing a mistrial. Lehman also removed a book, which contained opposing counsel's notes regarding cross-examining a witness, from opposing counsel's table despite an objection from opposing counsel.
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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

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