A Georgia CPA has been indicted by a federal grand jury for promoting syndicated conservation easement tax schemes that involved fraudulent charitable donations.
Herbert Lewis has been charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the US, 24 counts of wire fraud, 32 counts of aiding the preparation of false tax returns, and five counts of filing false tax returns.
According to the indictment, Lewis conspired with others to sell fraudulent tax shelter transactions in the form of syndicated conservation easement (SCE) donations.
The funds reportedly facilitated high-income taxpayers in purchasing membership in purported real estate investment funds.
However, the indictment claims that the funds served “no legitimate purpose”, and were instead used to “generate large fraudulent tax deductions for its participants based on the donated value of the conservation easements”.
Lewis also allegedly allowed clients to purchase units in a given SCE shelter after the year’s end, before advising the clients to backdate checks and subscription agreements which were included in Lewis’ tax returns that he prepared.
In total, the donations supposedly generated “hundreds of millions of dollars in tax deductions” through the SCE shelters.
Individually, the indictment states that Lewis received over $1m in commissions for selling the SCE shelters.
He has been charged with a maximum of 20 years’ prison for each count of wire fraud, five year for conspiring to defraud the US, three years for each count of false tax return filing, and three years for each count of aiding a false tax return filing.