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 Criminal Corner

We are committed to closing California’s $6.5 billion tax gap, defined as the difference between tax that is owed, and tax that is paid. Our special agents work cooperatively with law enforcement agencies throughout California to uncover illegal behaviors that contribute to the tax gap. These behaviors include underreporting income, overstating deductions, failing to file returns, failing to pay taxes due, and making illegal cash payments to employees.

Tax fraud is not a victimless crime. You can report suspected tax fraud on the FTB website at ftb.ca.gov, or by calling FTB at 800.540.3453.

Creston attorney sentenced to more than five years in prison for defrauding elderly clients

Attorney Alan Courtney, 54, was convicted December 18, 2008, of defrauding senior citizens of hundreds of thousands of dollars and sentenced to five years and four month in state prison. In September, a jury convicted Courtney on four counts of filing a false tax return, two counts of theft from an elder or dependent adult and one count of forgery.

This was a joint investigation with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office and FTB.

Sherman Oaks Attorney and five others charged with defrauding car insurers with false claims

Six people were charged on December 11, 2008, with participating in an auto insurance fraud ring that scammed companies out of nearly $1 million.

Attorney Hamid Taghizadeh, 46, of Sherman Oaks was the suspected ringleader of the operation. Taghizadeh allegedly paid people to bring him potential litigants to sue auto insurance companies -- an illegal practice known as "capping." The ring was busted after a California Highway Patrol officer deciphered a numerical code contained in a ledger that was seized from a Sherman Oaks attorney's office.

Taghizadeh is charged with 86 felony counts, including insurance fraud, receiving or offering compensation for referrals, grand theft of personal property, and tax evasion.

Taghizadeh's brother, Zekrollah, 53, of North Hills, is accused of helping run the insurance fraud scam and has been charged with 32 felony counts. Police are searching for Zekrollah Taghizadeh.

Two alleged cappers have also been charged. Jose Miguel Ayala, 23, of North Hollywood, and Claudia Belen Cota, 32, of Sylmar, are accused of netting more than $270,000 in capping fees between them. Ayala, who was charged with 83 felony counts, was arrested on December 10, 2008, and released on $190,000 bail. Cota, an administrative assistant at Taghizadeh's law office, was charged with 53 felony counts and has not been arrested yet.

The investigation into the ring began four years ago when a suspected capper was pulled over by a CHP officer. This led police to search Taghizadeh's law office and seize computers, bank statements, claim files, and the ledger with the numerical code.

Two chiropractors accused of creating false documents as part of the fraud have also been arrested. Bassam Michael Naber, 48, of Canyon Country, is charged with six felony counts and Yousef Rushdi Helo, 43, of Simi Valley, is charged with nine felony counts.

This was a joint investigation with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the California Department of Insurance, and FTB.

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