Energy investor Morris Zukerman was indicted on Tuesday for allegeldy evading over $45 million in taxes.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement that Zukerman was charged in a three-count indictment with engaging in multi-year tax fraud schemes that allegedly helped him evaded over $45 million in income and other taxes.
Zukerman, the principal at Manhattan-based M.E. Zukerman & Co. (MEZCO), allegedly schemed to evade taxes for income received from the January 2008 sale of an unnamed petroleum products company that he co-owned through a MEZCO subsidiary with a public company.
According to Bloomberg, his firm’s past partners have included ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Kinder Morgan.
A subsidiary of Zukerman’s firm also owns a stake in the Cortez Pipeline Company.
The DOJ claims that Zukerman schemed to evade reporting the sale by falsely telling his accountants in mid-2008 that he had transferred ownership of the MEZCO subsidiary to a family trust in early 2007.
According to the DOJ, the MEZCO subsidiary received $130 million in gross proceed from the sale.
To support the story he told the accountants, Zukerman allegedly created backdated documents such as promissory notes and a board resolution purporting to show the transfer of the subsidiary to his family trust.
The false documents allowed Zukerman to remove the MEZCO subsidiary from the consolidated tax reporting being handled by the firm’s accountants and allowed him to evade over $35 million in corporate income taxes, the DOJ said.
Following the sale, Zukerman allegedly transferred the proceeds from the MEZCO subsidiary to his family trust and various corporations he controlled, including a company called Zukerman Investments.
Between 2008 and 2013, he allegedly directed that over $50 million of the funds transferred to Zukerman Investments be used to purchase paintings by European artists from the 15th through the 19th centuries that were used to decorate his Upper East Side apartment and the apartments of two family members.
In connection with the purchase of the paintings, Zukeman also schemed to defraud New York State of over $4.5 million of sales and use taxes.
The DOJ said that Zukerman also schemed to evade personal income taxes and to obstruct the IRS by causing various tax return preparers to prepare individual tax returns for himself, his wife and three unnamed family members that claimed, in aggregate, millions of dollars of false and fraudulent deductions and expenses, such as phony charitable contributions and investment interest expenses.
Zukerman also allegedly diverted corporate assets from MEZCO and other firms he controlled to pay thousands of dollars in fees to family members who performed “little to no work” from 2007 to 2013, the DOJ said.
Zukerman, 71, is charged with one count of tax evasion, that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, one count of wire fraud, that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and one count of obstructing the IRS, that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
The three charges each also carry a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.
Zukerman was released on a $2,500,000 secured bond.
A conference before United States District Judge Analisa Torres is set for June 8, 2016.