A Louisiana criminal defense lawyer was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison Wednesday (April 19) for evading about $1 million in federal taxes over a 10-year period. Michael Thiel, a Baton Rouge resident with a law practice in Hammond, must also pay restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department said.
Thiel, 66, pleaded guilty in December to evading federal income and employment taxes. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, whom President Ronald Reagan appointed to the court. In addition to the prison sentence, Thiel must serve two years of supervised release and to pay the IRS $998,352.
From 2003 through 2013, Thiel did not timely file income or employment tax returns and did not make timely payments of the taxes he owed. Though he had the ability to make the payments, he concealed his income and assets using trusts and nominees, acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart Goldberg said.
In 2001, he created the Thiel Family Trust, of which he was the beneficiary, fiduciary and trustee. Court documents show he created two additional trusts in 2008 in the names of relatives, using all three to evade paying taxes.
In January 2007, Thiel used intermediaries to buy his primary residence for $435,000 and entered into a phony lease agreement with them to conceal his ownership of the property and shield it from IRS collection efforts, prosecutors said. Between January 2007 and January 2014, Thiel deposited $416,283 into an account that was used to secure and pay the mortgage on the property. The money came from the trusts and other accounts not held in his name, the Justice Department said.
Goldberg commended the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division, which conducted the investigation, and prosecutors Todd Ellinwood and Michael Hatzimichalis.
“As a result of today’s sentence, criminal defense attorney Michael Thiel’s decade-long effort to evade paying his income and employment taxes is over, and he will begin serving time in prison,” Goldberg said. “Each April, the vast majority of Americans follow the tax law and pay their fair share. They have the right to expect that taxpayers who spurn these obligations will be held fully to account — no matter their profession, wealth or position in the community.”