By Cristina Camara
In what is considered the largest tax fraud prosecution in history, a Chicago lawyer has pleaded guilty to helping rich clients evade millions of dollars in taxes.
Donna Guerin, a former partner at the now defunct Jenkens & Gilchrist law firm, is set to be sentenced January 11, 2013, when she may receive up to ten years in prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States and tax evasion. Her role in the scheme was to draft false opinion letters related to illegal tax shelters, which produced more than $6 billion in phony tax losses that customers could use to reduce their tax obligations by tens of millions of dollars.
"I knew in my heart then, and I acknowledge to your honor today, that many of our clients were only interested in reducing tax liabilities", Guerin told US District Court Judge William H. Pauley III, according to The Wall Street Journal. She said she came to understand "over time" that what she was doing was illegal.
"With her plea today, we continue the process of holding to account a group of professionals who used their training and expertise to facilitate a fraud, the magnitude of which cannot be overstated", US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
As part of the plea, Guerin agreed to forfeit $1.6 million and sell her Elmhurst, Illinois, home to satisfy the judgment, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Guerin changed her plea from the first trial in June when she was convicted, but juror misconduct resulted in her being granted a new trial. A juror, who Pauley called "a pathological liar", made up information about her background, her address, and claimed that "most attorneys" were "career criminals", Forbes reported. Two other defendants, Paul Daugerdas and Denis Field, were also given new trials. They both pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for retrial in April 2013. The eleven-week trial in 2011 included forty-one witnesses and 1,300 pieces of evidence in the case, which covered misconduct from 1994 to 2004.