A man who repeatedly sought six-figure tax refunds from the IRS based on sovereign-citizen-style claims lost his appeal of a three-year sentence and an order that he repay nearly $150,000.
Airrion Blake could not persuade the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals to revise his sentence in United States of America v. Airrion S. Blake, 19-2508.
Blake “is a college graduate with a master’s degree in business administration. Even so, he claims unnamed users in internet chat rooms persuaded him that the federal government holds hidden bank accounts for its citizens — ‘legacy trusts’ — that can be accessed through various legal maneuvers,” Judge Michael Brennan wrote. “According to this ploy the government allows anyone to cash out their lifetime social security earnings at any time. Under this pretense Blake filed eight different individual tax returns using fraudulent information.”
For the tax years 2006-2013, Blake filed tax returns for amounts ranging from about $139,000 to $300,000. The IRS paid a refund Blake claimed only in 2011, for the amount of $149,358. “Blake’s actions came to the attention of the IRS in 2015,” Brennan wrote.
After an investigation, a grand jury indicted Blake for tax fraud, and a federal jury convicted him after a four-day trial. Blake was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $149,358. On appeal, he challenged the calculation of his sentencing guidelines range.
“Blake argues the district court made insufficient findings and erred in holding him responsible for the 2008–2010 returns. He also claims the court should have found, or did find, that he intended to defraud the IRS of $300,000, not more than $1.5 million. We disagree …,” the panel held.
Brennan noted that Indiana Northern District Senior Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen found that Blake had filed bogus returns in the years before and after he received his one fraudulent refund, and that the judge discarded Blake’s claims that he intended to stop at $300,000.
The panel also noted that Van Bokkelen said at sentencing, “human experience tells me that the outlandish theories about the trust account upon one’s birth and the government owing everybody money are just a shield to hide behind in case one is caught. … As I stated earlier, and it is worth repeating, he knew what he was doing. He knew the money he was seeking wasn’t his to have. Had it been otherwise, he would not have had to make up lies in the forms that he filed.”
“For these reasons we affirm Blake’s sentence,” the panel held. Separately, it dismissed without prejudice Blake’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, because Blake’s appellate counsel at oral argument agreed the claim was better considered on collateral review.