San Marcos Man Sentenced to 46 Months in Prison for Stealing the Identities of Charities as Part of a Tax-Fraud Scheme
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Zipp (619) 546-8463 and Seth Askins (619) 546-6692
SAN DIEGO – Robert Holcomb, 53, was sentenced in federal court today to 46 months’ custody and ordered to pay a fine of $600,000, for misappropriating the identities of charities and using them to open bank accounts as part of a long-running tax fraud scheme.
Holcomb, who appeared before U.S. District Court Judge William Q. Hayes, was convicted by a federal jury on July 20, 2018 of four counts of making false statements to a financial institution.
According to the evidence presented at trial, Holcomb held himself out as an “asset protection” specialist who had the ability to use charitable trust accounts to reduce the tax liability of clients. Holcomb convinced his clients to forward him the profits from their businesses, which he then cycled through a series of bank accounts—with names that sounded like charities—and then returned the funds, minus a commission, with the assurance that they no longer constituted taxable income. Holcomb’s clients then filed tax returns that substantially underreported their true income, resulting in millions of dollars in lost income to the IRS. Over the course of a decade, Holcomb transferred more than $12 million in otherwise taxable income through his accounts, collecting “commissions” from his clients of more than $1 million dollars.
In 2011, after a number of Holcomb’s bank accounts were frozen, he was forced to open dozens of new accounts to keep the tax-evasion scheme operating. To do so, Holcomb began creating corporate entities whose names matched those of existing charities; misappropriating the taxpayer identification information from those charities; and then using their names and identification numbers to open new bank accounts. These charities included:
Light of Life LLC, which operated a soup kitchen and rescue mission in Pittsburgh, PA;
On Eagle’s Wings LLC, which provided missionary outreach in the Northwest Territories of Canada;
Push the Rock, LLC, a Christian Sports Ministry, in Pennsylvania;
Sharing and Caring, LLC, a veteran’s organization that organized an annual boat trip for wounded veterans in Pittsburgh.
Representatives from each organization testified at trial that they did not know Holcomb, never gave him authorization to use their identities, and were unaware that he opened bank accounts in their name. When confronted about his affiliation with the charities, in a recorded call, Holcomb claimed that he had a “fiduciary relationship” and “run[s] everything.” When IRS agents then executed a search warrant on Holcomb’s residence, he admitted to using the charities’ numbers, but claimed that he could “use whatever number” he wanted, because he was “USA posterity.” Holcomb explained that he was “part of the upper caste” that was descended from the original founders of the “Massachusetts Bay Company.” As such, he explained, he was not required to pay taxes and was not subject to the Constitution.
“Holcomb used a series of sham trust arrangements to divert millions of taxpayer dollars into his own pocket,” said U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer. “His offense was particularly egregious because he used the identities of real charities in order to avoid detection and continue collecting commissions on funds that should have gone to the U.S. Treasury. No one is above the law, and merely claiming to be a sovereign citizen will not exempt you from criminal liability.”
“As today’s sentencing shows, individuals who create elaborate schemes that have no purpose other than to defraud the IRS and financial institutions will be prosecuted and suffer a loss of freedom,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Bryant Jackson of IRS Criminal Investigation. “With filing season in full swing, it is a good time to remember that the IRS will actively pursue fraudsters who cleverly orchestrate these types of avoidance schemes.”
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Zipp and Seth Askins.