Dallas attorney charged in $1 billion tax shelter scheme


Date: October 27, 2022

Contact: newsroom@ci.irs.gov

A Dallas attorney who allegedly created tax shelters to help high-net-worth clients conceal more than one billion dollars in income from the IRS has been federally charged, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Chad E. Meacham.

Joseph Garza was indicted Tuesday on 18 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and 22 counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of fraudulent income tax returns. He was arrested on October 25, 2022, at his home and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramirez the following day.

"This attorney allegedly hid more than a billion dollars of client income from the IRS, conning the U.S. Treasury out of roughly $200 million and lining his own pockets in the process," said U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham. "Our country functions best when every citizen pays his or her fair share. We will aggressively pursue anyone who subverts our tax laws."

"IRS Criminal Investigation and the Department of Justice are working vigorously to stop abusive tax schemes like the ones created by Mr. Garza," said Christopher J. Altemus, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation Dallas Field Office. " Mr. Garza exploited his position as an attorney and purported tax expert to try and legitimize his illegal tax scheme. His arrest should serve as a warning that individuals who create elaborate schemes that have no purpose other than to defraud the IRS and shift the tax burden to honest American taxpayers will be prosecuted."

According to the indictment, Mr. Garza allegedly created multiple shell companies – including shell "services" companies and shell "investments" companies – to create a circular flow of funds to help clients avoid paying taxes.

These shell companies purported to provide services to the clients' businesses or to serve as family investment vehicles, but actually had no legitimate purpose other than to move money. Mr. Garza and others allegedly created sham operating agreements, sham service agreements, phony invoices, and false private annuity agreements designed to give the companies the appearance of legitimacy and conceal the scheme from the IRS.

Mr. Garza and others then allegedly assisted clients in the preparation and filing of fraudulent tax returns, including IRS Forms 1120 and 1120-S, falsely deducting businesses expenses for services that were never performed; IRS Forms 1065 for the service companies, falsely reporting gross receipts for payments that were not earned; IRS Forms 1065 for the investment companies, falsely deducting payments from the investment company to the taxpayer for annuities that didn't exist; and IRS Forms 1040 and 1040X, underreporting the individual taxpayers' incomes.

He allegedly charged clients a percentage of the predetermined amount of money they had chosen to shelter from taxes.

The scheme allegedly resulted in more than $1 billion in unreported income and more than $200 million in unpaid taxes.

An indictment is merely an allegation of criminal conduct, not evidence. Like all defendants, Mr. Garza is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

If convicted, he faces up to faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each of the 18 counts of wire fraud, 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and three years in prison for each of 22 counts of aiding and assisting in the filing of false federal income tax returns.

Meanwhile, the investigation is ongoing.

IRS – Criminal Investigations' Dallas Field Division conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Dallas Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Renee Hunter, Katherine Miller, and Marty Basu of the Northern District of Texas are prosecuting the case with Trial Attorney Robert Kemins of the Justice Department's Tax Division.