713 F.2d 1423 (9th Cir. 1983), 82-1137, United States v. Dahlstrom

Docket Nº:82-1137, 82-1141, 82-1138, 82-1142 and 82-1143.
Citation:713 F.2d 1423
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Karl L. DAHLSTROM, R. Bruce Ripley, Hiram E. Conley, David J. Morris, and Gaze Durst, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:August 24, 1983
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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713 F.2d 1423 (9th Cir. 1983)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Karl L. DAHLSTROM, R. Bruce Ripley, Hiram E. Conley, David

J. Morris, and Gaze Durst, Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 82-1137, 82-1141, 82-1138, 82-1142 and 82-1143.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 24, 1983

Argued and Submitted March 10, 1983.

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David L. Botsford, Austin, Tex., for Dahlstrom.

Joe Alfred Izen, Jr., Houston, Tex., for Ripley.

Merwin D. Grant, Phoenix, Ariz., for Conley.

Kenneth Kanev, Seattle, Wash., for Morris.

Irwin H. Schwartz, Seattle, Wash., for Durst.

Robert E. Lindsay, Alan Hechtkopf, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Before GOODWIN, ALARCON, and FERGUSON, Circuit Judges.

ALARCON, Circuit Judge:

Appellants Dahlstrom, Ripley, Conley, Morris and Durst were convicted by a jury of conspiracy to defraud the United States, 18 U.S.C. § 371, and of aiding and abetting the preparation and presentation of fraudulent income tax returns. 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2). Each appellant contends the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction as to the crimes charged against him. We agree.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In determining whether a jury verdict rests on sufficient evidence, a reviewing

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court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and determine "whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2789, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979); United States v. Universal Trade and Industries, 695 F.2d 1151, 1153 (9th Cir.1983).

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Appellants were charged in a seven-count criminal indictment brought by the United States. Count I charged all five appellants with conspiracy to defraud the government in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. Counts II through VII charged one or more of the appellants with violations of section 7206(2) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Dahlstrom and Ripley were indicted under all of the counts. Dahlstrom was convicted under every count save count IV, and Ripley was convicted under counts I, III and V. Conley was charged and convicted under counts I, II, VI, and VII. Morris was charged and convicted under counts I and V, while Durst was both charged and convicted under counts I and VII.

The district court sentenced each appellant to imprisonment on count I: Dahlstrom for five years, Ripley for four years, Conley for three years, Morris for 18 months and Durst for one year. The court also sentenced each appellant to five years probation on each of the remaining counts on which he was convicted.

III. FACTS

In 1976, Dahlstrom began to promote and sell a tax shelter program he had devised. At various times thereafter, Ripley, Conley, Morris and Durst joined in the promotion and sale of the program.

Sales of the program took the form of sales of membership in an organization that Dahlstrom had formed called, the American Law Association (ALA). Purchasers of the program bought membership in the ALA. As members, they were entitled to receive instruction and materials relating to the tax shelter program at ALA two-day seminars. Members attending these ALA seminars were charged fees ranging from $6,000 to $12,000.

At these seminars, Dahlstrom and Ripley instructed members on how to create foreign trust organizations (FTO's) in order to reduce their tax liabilities. The members were also provided with forms for setting up such trust organizations and documenting trust transactions. In addition, members received instruction on a "taxpayer defense program" which consisted of lawful actions a member could utilize in the event of an IRS audit. While the program did not include advice or assistance in preparing a member's income tax return, some of the appellants occasionally assisted a member in establishing his FTO by traveling to the designated country and executing the requisite trust documents on behalf of that member.

Members who implemented the ALA tax shelter program caused three trust organizations to be created in a foreign country by a citizen of that country. Typically, trust number one would be named trustee of trusts two and three, although the person implementing the FTO's retained complete control over all three trusts.

This tax shelter program contemplated that trust number two would be treated as a non-resident alien (purely for tax purposes) and would be subject to tax on payments from the user of the program. In order to reduce trust two's tax liability, purchasers of the program had trust two make payments to trust three. Payments made to trust three would not represent taxable income since trust three would be a foreign entity receiving income from a foreign source.

The final stage of this tax shelter program involved the return to the purchaser of some or all the money he paid to trust number two. In order to achieve this goal,

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a purchaser would have trust two borrow money from trust three and execute a demand note payable to trust three. Trust three would then transfer the demand note to the purchaser as a gift and the purchaser would demand and receive payment from trust two. This method was premised on 26 U.S.C. § 102 (IRC), which excludes gifts from gross income for income tax purposes, and IRC section 2501 which provides a gift tax exemption for gifts of intangible property by a non-resident alien to a citizen of the United States.

The thrust of the government's case depended in large part on evidence of the trusts and subsequent tax return of Dr. John Ricketts. In November of 1977, Dr. Ricketts expressed interest in the ALA program and attended introductory meetings. Dr. Ricketts' accountant ultimately advised against use of the ALA tax shelter program.

After discussions with his accountant, however, Dr. Ricketts asked O'Leary, a former IRS investigator, to review a tape he had made of a December meeting of the ALA. Shortly after submitting the tape to O'Leary, Dr. Ricketts was contacted by Randy Draughon, an agent for the IRS Criminal Fraud Investigation Division. Agent Draughon returned Dr. Ricketts' tape and asked him to assist in an investigation of the ALA.

In November of 1978, Dr. Ricketts attended an ALA two-day seminar. He was accompanied by IRS agent Walter Perry, who posed as Vince Paoli, a financial advisor to Dr. Ricketts. In order to assist the IRS investigation, Dr. Ricketts authorized appellant Conley to implement the ALA tax shelter program in Belize.

After Dr. Ricketts' trusts were set up, Dahlstrom and Conley advised Agent Perry and Ricketts on creating a deduction by repurchasing his tax package from one of his trusts. Conley also recommended that Ricketts obtain accounting services from Durst. Though it was not his general practice to prepare tax returns for ALA members, Durst agreed to do so for Dr. Ricketts.

Durst advised Agent Perry that Dr. Ricketts could deduct $50,000 for 1978, for the repurchase of his tax package from his trust number two if the check had been written before the end of...

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