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Is Michael Cohen as “Guilty” as Some Believe? – The Jewish Voice Takes a Deeper Look

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President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen was indicted last year by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York on charges of tax evasion and making unlawful campaign finance violations.

“Michael Cohen is a lawyer who, rather than setting an example of respect for the law, instead chose to break the law, repeatedly over many years and in a variety of ways,” Robert Khuzami, the Acting United States Attorney at the time, said last year in announcing a plea agreement with Mr. Cohen. “His day of reckoning serves as a reminder that we are a nation of laws, with one set of rules that applies equally to everyone.”

These televised words, following the hearing, were carefully chosen by Prosecutors to be both rousing and impactful. Unfortunately, they also were not true or accurate.

Over roughly the same time periods in question, several high-profile public figures such as Christopher Tucker, Willie Nelson, and Floyd Mayweather have had tax evasion-related matter settled; ALL through civil means as opposed to criminal charges. The Internal Revenue Service regularly employs a variety of tactics to go after those who violate U.S. tax law, before referring cases to the Criminal Enforcement section of the agency, such as wage garnishment and levying liens against certain individuals.

As of 2014, according to the New York Times, MSNBC anchor Al Sharpton owed the federal government over $3.7 million in back taxes. Two of his now-defunct businesses, Revals Communications, and Raw Talents, each owed the Internal Revenue Service hundreds of thousands of dollars at one point in time. Due to federal privacy laws, it is currently unknown how much in back taxes Mr. Sharpton has paid back to the government, and whether his two defunct businesses ever made payments to the federal government.

The National Action Network, an organization ran by Mr. Sharpton, owed the Internal Revenue Service $813,000 in back taxes as of Dec. 2012, according to Fox Business. And in 2006, the National Action Network owed almost $2 million in back taxes.

“You’ve made a career out of dividing people by race, you’ve been a race hustler your entire career,” former Trump staffer Corey Stewart said to Mr. Sharpton last year, in an interview while he was running for the U.S. Senate. “You’ve made a lot of money at it, you haven’t even bothered to pay your taxes at it, and all you do is divide Americans by race. And frankly, people are tired of it.”

Actor Nicolas Cage told People Magazine in 2010 that he owed the Internal Revenue Service $14 million dollars and that the nation’s premier tax agency impose a $6.8 million lien on his real estate holdings.

“Over the course of my career I have paid at least $70 million in taxes, unfortunately, due to a recent legal situation, another approximate $14 million is owed to the IRS,” Mr. Cage told PEOPLE at the time. “However, I am under new business management and am happy to say that I am current for 2009, all taxes will be paid including any to be determined state taxes.”

Marc Anthony, a famous Latin singer, also at one point in time owed a hefty amount of money to the IRS.RadarOnline.com reported many years ago that Mr. Anthony, Jennifer Lopez’s ex-husband, owed a total of $3.4 million in federal and state back taxes. Mr. Anthony ultimately paid $2.5 million in back taxes, after repeatedly ignoring the federal government, but was never criminally prosecuted or threatened with jail time like Mr. Cohen.

Kyle Tessiero, One of Mr. Anthony’s former accountants, admitted to federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York that he stole over $9 million from the singer over a period of eight years. Mr. Tessiero, as part of the alleged fraud, racked up millions of dollars on Mr. Anthony’s American Express credit card, purchasing fancy meals and vacations, prosecutors said.

The IRS said that actor John Travolta owed them $1.1. million dollars for fiscal years 1993 thru 1995. Mr. Travolta ultimately settled with the tax collection agency for $607,400.

Approximately  40 individuals wrote letters to the Judge on Mr. Cohen’s behalf; some who knew him for 40 minutes; others who have known him for almost 40 years. “Michael’s friends attest to his aid and generosity in assisting them with their own business endeavors,” a sentencing memo from Mr. Cohen’s attorneys said. “Kelly Gitter recounts that when she was struggling to make a living as a real estate broker in the aftermath of the financial crisis, “Michael was the first one to help me by putting me in contact with a friend of his,” eventually resulting in a successful purchase.”

“As an initial matter, Michael did not find himself in the criminal justice system facing tax charges after audit, an unsatisfied or obstructed demand by the IRS, an investigated history of sophisticated tax maneuvers and deceptions, or the discovery by the government of offshore or nominee accounts or bogus deductions,” his attorneys added in his sentencing memo. “Nor was there any meaningful pre-charge process in this case.”

Mr. Cohen’s attorneys stressed in his legal sentencing memorandum that none of the commonly seen indicators in criminal IRS cases were present in his case, such as unreported cash transactions, offshore bank accounts, or fraudulent deductions. Mr. Cohen had no offshore accounts, no nominee accounts or fake wire transfers. In fact, all funds were deposited in New York banks with almost all being in his joint checking account located in the building he resides. Moreover, Mr. Cohen continuously filed his tax returns timely, had never been audited and paid what was determined as the tax due by his Certified Public Accountant.

“To be sure, Michael, as a prominent American and attorney, may have been selected for criminal prosecution to set an example,” Mr. Cohen’s legal counsel, Guy Petrillo and Amy Lester wrote in his sentencing memo. “In cases of unsophisticated means such as this one, even when the taxpayer is a well-known public figure, the government routinely makes its point through IRS administrative, not criminal, action.”

Mr. Cohen’s previous counsel, who once ran the office charging his client, also stressed that although he did make a false statement to a bank, that in his opinion, no financial harm was caused to the bank because the property in which the Home Equity Line of Credit was taken out on was worth 80% more than the amount of the credit line.

“At the time, the unencumbered equity value in the residence was more than 10 times that amount,” his sentencing memo says.

In this high profile, politically charged case, 2 plus 2 is just not adding up to 4.

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