On Wednesday, it was announced that a federal grand jury in Manhattan had returned an indictment against a New York attorney and partner at a law firm. The defendant has been charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, tax evasion, and corruptly endeavoring to impede the internal revenue laws. 57-year-old Steven M. Etkind served as the head of a law firm’s tax, trusts and estates group. He was also a Certified Public Accountant.
The indictment accuses Etkind of performing legal work for a successful entrepreneur client, who passed in 2008. The client named Etkind the co-executor of his $35 million estate. The indictment alleges that the client’s will ordered the creation of charitable trusts to be funded from the client’s estate. The assets would be used for the sole purpose of donating to charitable organizations aimed at helping Jewish sponsored organizations. Etkind was allegedly named a co-trustee of these trusts.
The indictment accuses Etkind and a co-conspirator of setting up a phony charitable organization and using it to steal more than $3.5 million from these charitable trusts. The defendant allegedly directed donations from the trusts to legitimate organizations, but then redirected the funds to the phony charity accounts, which he controlled along with his co-conspirator. The defendant is accused of using some of the money to purchase a 6,300 square foot home with a swimming pool in Southampton, New York.
The indictment also accuses Etkind of trying to conceal his theft by causing fraudulent personal, corporate and charitable trust returns to be filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The defendant allegedly made several false and misleading statements to the IRS during the course of an audit and examination. Should Etkind be convicted, he will face a maximum penalty of five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and five years on each of the tax evasion charges.
At this point in time, the defendant is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Additional details can be found here.