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Tax fraud lands attorney in prison

January 1, 2008
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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