Sherry Lynn Vertoch, age 64, was arrested for posing as an agent of the Internal Revenue Service in order to gain free housing at a California hotel. Since her arrest in January, Vertoch has pleaded guilty to impersonating a federal agent and, if convicted, could spend up to three years in prison.
Vertoch told the owners of the Inn Marin in Novato that she was on special assignment for the IRS. The tax agency, she said, would pay her bill when her assignment was complete. When the tab reached $55,175 the owners of the family business contacted the IRS to ask for payment. That’s when they learned Vertoch was a fraud.
One day after Vertoch entered her guilty plea, the owners of the hotel filed a lawsuit against her to recover some of the money. Even if they win the case, the ability of the hotel owners to collect is uncertain.
"In the event she doesn't have any assets, we'll at least have a judgment against her so that if she comes into any money in the next 10 years ... we would have a secured place in attaching those assets due to the judgment,” Matthew Pavone, attorney for the hotel, told reporters.
"There's also of course the possibility, if she has some assets now, we can get restitution through the criminal case, but Inn Marin wanted to protect its interests on as many fronts as possible and thought it made sense to have a civil action pending as well," Pavone said.
Vertoch will appear in U.S. District Court in San Francisco for sentencing on April 20.
Sacramento, CA-based accountant and local celebrity William Murray last December admitted to bilking 52 clients and 13 others out of millions of dollars. Last week, he pleaded guilty and now awaits sentencing.
Some of Murray’s victims believed they were investing in a venture called United Financial Services. He told others that they owed huge, but uncertain, sums to the IRS or the California Franchise Tax Board. Those clients gave him "good faith payments,” which they believed he sent to the tax authorities. Instead, the money was deposited into Murray’s own trust account.
Murray set up an elaborate Ponzi scheme using client money to finance a lavish lifestyle, while client tax liabilities went unpaid. The scheme included changing client addresses to his own so that IRS notices went to him and not to the clients. As demands for payment came in, he used other client money to satisfy the debts. After an investigation, Murray admitted to the fraudulent activity.
On March 9, he appeared in a Sacramento court to plead guilty. His plea deal includes restitution to his victims, forfeiture of property, and full disclosure of his financial affairs.
Murray will appear in court again on May 28 for sentencing, and faces up to 23 years in prison. He could get a reduced sentence based on "acceptance of responsibility," a possibility which has many of his victims outraged.
Murray was a certified public accountant, a local celebrity who gave financial advice on TV, and a former IRS agent who said he left the agency because he thought taxpayers were treated badly.