Sacramento accountant with lavish lifestyle charged with stealing from clients

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A prominent Sacramento CPA has been accused of stealing more than $13.3 million from his clients, according to reports.

William Murray, 55, allegedly deposited tax payments from his clients into his own trust account, rather than sending them to the IRS, the Sacramento Bee reported. Murray confessed to IRS agents that he stole millions of dollars from clients over the past decade, according to documents filed December 16 in federal court.

Murray pleaded not guilty in a brief arraignment February 12, but his attorney, Donald Heller, told KXTV in Sacramento that he did not expect the case to go to trial.

Murray, a former IRS agent, told clients he left that job because he disliked the way the IRS treated people, according to the Sacramento Bee. “I can’t look in the mirror after what I do to people,” he allegedly said.

Court papers say Murray defrauded 52 tax clients and 13 others who thought they were investing in a venture called U.S. Financial Services.

Court documents paint a picture of Murray’s lavish lifestyle, funded by his clients’ tax checks. The stolen money paid for a Virginia condominium, a house remodel, a Lexus SUV, Lincoln Town Car, Rolex watches, 10 Persian rugs, artwork by Jimmy Buffett and LeRoy Neiman, and 350 bottles of wine, among other items, according to U.S. Attorney Matthew Segal, who is seeking seizure of the items upon conviction.

Murray, a partner in the Murray & Young accounting firm, was fairly well known in the Sacramento area, having appeared on KXTV’s News10 Midday, offering tax tips to viewers. The California Board of Accountancy in January suspended Murray’s CPA license, the Sacramento Business Journal reported. Murray also owed a limousine business, which recently closed.

One of the victims is Pat Whitechat of Roseville, a real estate broker whom Murray allegedly swindled out of more than $500,000. She told the Sacramento Bee, “He did things to our lives that the system can never compensate us for. Brian Goold showed up at my front door just before Thanksgiving. He held up his badge and said, ‘Hi, I’m Special Agent Goold from the IRS, and there’s a problem with your taxes.’ My husband had just had heart surgery and had been released from the hospital the day before. He is still unglued over this.”

Another alleged victim, William Ames, told the Sacramento Bee that he and his wife gave Murray a check for $20,000, which Murray said was a “good faith payment to the [state] Franchise Tax Board until we figure out what you owe” for tax year 2004. Ames and his wife also gave Murray $30,000 which was supposed to have purchased a part ownership in the limousine service.

Formally charged with four counts of mail fraud, Murray could face up to 20 years in prison. Heller said his client was cooperating with federal investigators. “It’s a great tragedy for everyone concerned,” Heller told KXTV. “I really feel for the victims.”

The victims, however, did not receive the apology well, telling reporters that they view Heller – who is a former federal prosecutor – as a “smooth practitioner” whose goal is to minimize Murray’s punishment.

If Murray pleads guilty and cooperates with authorities, he could receive credit for “acceptance of responsibility” and be given a reduced sentence. He has been placed on limited home confinement with electronic monitoring after offering his three homes in Sacramento as collateral for a $300,000 secured bond.

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