New Jersey accountant pleads guilty to tax fraud scheme


Date: May 2, 2023


A New Jersey certified public accountant (“CPA”) pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the United States by promoting fraudulent tax shelters to high-income clients.

According to court documents and statements made in court, James H. Benkoil of Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey, promoted fraudulent syndicated conservation easements in which several investors form a partnership or company to purchase or invest in land, then donate the property for a charitable deduction. The scheme facilitated false claims of inflated charitable contribution tax deductions in connection with the “donation” of the conservation easement over land, allowing Benkoil’s high-income clients to buy deductions to illegally shelter their income from taxation.

Between 2009 and 2020, while working as a CPA, Benkoil and others, promoted such fraudulent syndicated conservation easement tax shelters by obtaining falsely inflated land appraisals to achieve the desired amount of tax deductions. As a part of his guilty plea, Benkoil admitted his conduct resulted in a tax loss to the IRS of nearly $2.5 million and has agreed to pay full restitution.

Benkoil faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, as well as a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.  A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division made the announcement.

IRS-Criminal Investigation is investigating the case.

Trial Attorneys Christopher Magnani and Richard Rolwing of the Justice Department’s Tax Division are prosecuting the case.