IRS Criminal Investigation’s top 10 cases – 6 to 10


Date: January 3, 2022


As IRS:CI begins to countdown their top 10 cases of 2021 please find cases six through ten here:

6. Ontario man who ran multimillion-dollar unlicensed bitcoin exchange business sentenced to 3 years in federal prison

Hugo Sergio Mejia operated an unlicensed business that exchanged at least $13 million in Bitcoin and cash, often for drug traffickers. From May 2018 to September 2020, Mejia operated a virtual currency business that exchanged Bitcoin for cash, and vice versa, charging commissions for these transactions. On several occasions between May 2019 and March 2020, Mejia met with a client, who was working with law enforcement, to exchange Bitcoin for tens of thousands of dollars in cash. On March 12, 2020, Mejia met with the client at a coffee shop in Irvine, California, and facilitated the exchange of 14.273 Bitcoin for $82,150 in cash plus fees. During this meeting, the client informed Mejia that his primary customer was a methamphetamine buyer in Australia who purchased methamphetamine every four to six weeks and sold it in Australia for five times more than the average price in the United States. Mejia and the client, who was working with law enforcement, conducted five Bitcoin-cash transactions that cumulatively exceeded $250,000. As part of his plea agreement with the government, Mejia agreed to forfeit all assets derived from the illegal conduct, including $233,987 in cash seized from residences in Santa Ana, California, and Ontario, Canada; silver coins and bars; and approximately $95,587 in various cryptocurrency. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison.

7. Russian bank founder sentenced for evading exit tax upon renouncing U.S. citizenship

Oleg Tinkov, aka Oleg Tinkoff, renounced his U.S. citizenship in an effort to conceal large stock gains that were reportable to the IRS. He founded Tinkoff Credit Services (TCS), a Russia-based branchless bank, in the mid-2000s, and in October 2013, TCS held an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange. At that point, TCS became a multibillion dollar, publicly traded company. As part of going public, Tinkov sold a small portion of his majority shareholder stake for more than $192 million, and his assets following the IPO reached a fair market value of more than $1.1 billion. Three days after the successful IPO, Tinkov went to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, and relinquished his U.S. citizenship. Tinkov lied about his net worth on his expatriation paperwork to avoid taxes. Tinkov now owes $248,525,339 million in taxes to the IRS. He was ordered to pay interest on that amount and a nearly $100 million fraud penalty for evading taxes. He was sentenced to time-served and one year of supervised release.

8. Orlando sisters sentenced in $25 million tax fraud scheme

Petra Gomez and her co-conspirator, her sister, Jakeline Lumucso, operated a tax preparation business with five locations in central Florida that filed more than 16,000 false tax returns for their clients from 2012 to 2016 with a total estimated loss to the IRS of $25 million. Many of their clients were migrant workers who only lived in the U.S. temporarily. Gomez's company, however, continued to file false returns for these clients during subsequent years without their consent. Gomez used the proceeds to pay for her extravagant lifestyle which included a $2.2 million home she paid for in cash. Gomez pleaded guilty to tax evasion for failing to declare more than $800,000 in income and conspiracy to defraud the government and was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Lumucso pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and was sentenced to four years in federal prison.

9. Rochester man going to prison and ordered to pay millions in restitution for his role in Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of millions of dollars

Between 2017 and June 2018, John Piccarreto, Jr. conspired with others to obtain money through an investment fraud Ponzi scheme. The scheme, which was conducted under the umbrella of a business entity called Lucian Development, involved the sale of fraudulent promissory notes issued under various entity names controlled by co-conspirators, including Lucian Development. The issuers received money from new investors and then redistributed that money to repay earlier investors. They also used the funds to finance the lifestyles of the conspirators involved in the scheme. By January 2017, the defendant learned Lucian Development was a Ponzi scheme after the company stopped paying promised returns to client investors whom he serviced. However, rather than severing his association with Lucian Development, Piccarreto continued to work there, knowingly lying to investors by falsely reassuring them that their investments were safe and secure, even though he knew this was not true, and encouraging investors to "reinvest" their fraudulent investments by signing new promissory notes. Between Jan. 1, 2017, and June 19, 2018, Piccarreto was involved in defrauding approximately 400 investors out of approximately $18,081,556, which resulted in financial hardship to more than 25 of its investor victims. Piccarreto also admitted that, while working in Texas, he personally solicited and defrauded at least eight investors out of approximately $598,695. In addition, on his 2017 tax return, the defendant claimed a taxable income of $6,576. In fact, Piccarreto's taxable income was approximately $538,548, and he avoided paying income taxes to the IRS in the amount of approximately $159,423. He was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution totaling $19,842,613.66 after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and filing a false tax return.

10. Albuquerque couple sentenced to federal prison in Ayudando Guardians case

Susan Harris and William Harris stole funds from Ayudando Guardians Inc., a nonprofit organization that provided guardianship, conservatorship and financial management to hundreds of people with special needs. They engaged in a pattern of criminal conduct for nearly a decade that included unlawfully transferring money from client accounts and writing and endorsing checks for more than $10,000 to themselves and other parties where they personally benefited, all while maintaining the appearance of legitimacy. The stolen funds were used to fund the Harris' lavish lifestyle. The pair fled prior to their sentencing hearing, and the U.S. Marshals arrested them in Oklahoma. Susan Harris was sentenced to 47 years in federal prison and William Harris was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for their roles in the scheme.