United States v. Poltonowicz, 120209 FED3, 08-2772

Docket Nº:08-2772
Opinion Judge:SCIRICA, Chief Judge, JORDAN and COWEN, Circuit Judges
Judge Panel:BEFORE: SCIRICA, Chief Judge, JORDAN and COWEN, Circuit Judges
Case Date:December 02, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit




No. 08-2772

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

December 2, 2009


Submitted Pursuant to Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) November 6, 2009

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Criminal No. 2-07-cr-00052-1) District Judge: Hon. James T. Giles

BEFORE: SCIRICA, Chief Judge, JORDAN and COWEN, Circuit Judges


COWEN, Circuit Judge

John J. Poltonowicz, pro se, appeals the judgment of conviction and sentence following his trial conviction for one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, twelve counts of aiding, assisting, and counseling the filing of false tax returns in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(2), four counts of mail fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1341, three counts of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343, five counts of making false statements on loan applications in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1014, and two counts of making false statements to the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. We will affirm.


Poltonowicz began his career with the IRS as an analyst in its Criminal Investigation Division. In 1992, he left the IRS and began operating a tax preparation business. Over time his business expanded to include additional offices and he hired additional tax preparers.

By 2003, the IRS began to suspect fraud and sent an undercover agent to his office with a recording device. During the course of the taped conversation, Poltonowicz informed the agent that he would include business expenses in her return, even though she repeatedly told him that she had no business expenses. Although the agent never mentioned charitable contributions, and provided him with no evidence whatsoever of any such contributions, he included $2,190 in cash contributions to charity and $495 in non-cash contributions to charity on the agent's return. As a result, the agent's tax return showed that she was entitled to a $12 refund, instead of reflecting that she owed $1,012 in additional taxes. Subsequently, the agent requested a meeting with Poltonowicz to discuss a letter she received from the IRS informing her that she would be audited. Again, the agent wore a recording device. He admitted to the preparation of a false tax return and that he included the false deductions to save her from paying additional taxes (as he operated under the assumption that she would not be audited). He reassured her that she would not get in trouble for the fraudulent return.

Poltonowicz agreed to plead guilty to one count of filing false tax returns and the IRS revoked his ability to file electronic tax returns. Thereafter, he formed Matrix Tax Service, Inc. ("Matrix") in the name of June M. McMackin, his long-time roommate and housekeeper. He filed an account with the IRS under her name to again begin filing electronic tax returns. Prior to trial, he moved, pro se, to suppress the evidence obtained during searches of his home and Matrix's offices. Poltonowicz appeared at the suppression hearing pro se with the assistance of an attorney serving as a legal advisor. He testified that he was not the owner of Matrix, that Ms. McMackin owned Matrix, and that she had interviewed and hired him. The district court denied his motion.

At trial, several former employees testified that Poltonowicz instructed them to claim nonexistent employee business expenses, to overstate charitable contributions, and to understate income. Additionally, these witnesses testified that they observed him prepare false tax returns in this manner on numerous occasions. Numerous clients testified about their fraudulent tax returns. Some of these clients were suspicious of the fictitious charitable contributions, but Poltonowicz reassured them that those deductions were standard and would not trigger an audit. Several of these clients had not realized that they had submitted fraudulent tax returns until audited by the IRS.

The government also presented evidence of his affinity for overstating income when beneficial. He obtained three mortgages for his home and a lease for an automobile by providing his creditors with W-2 tax forms that overstated his income. He provided W-2s falsified in the same manner for his father and certain clients to assist them in obtaining loans. In each of these instances, the W-2s overstated income and were not the W-2s actually filed with the IRS for that particular year.

The jury convicted Poltonowicz of all of the charges except for two counts of making false statements to obtain a loan in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1014. The parties then prepared for sentencing, for which he retained counsel. The pre-sentence investigation report ("PSR") estimated the tax loss at $408, 275.1 Poltonowicz moved for an order compelling the government to produce the documents on which it relied. In particular, he asserted that the government was required to support its estimated tax loss with tax returns, memoranda of interviews of clients, and audit reports and demanded production of these documents. The government countered that under the Sentencing Guidelines, it was permitted to support its estimate with the 200 audited tax returns presented at the trial, but that nonetheless, he had all of the requested documents one year prior to his trial.

The district court conducted a sentencing hearing, at which Poltonowicz appeared with counsel. The government offered testimony as to its methodology in calculating the tax loss. It restricted the calculations to tax returns that were personally prepared by Poltonowicz as opposed to any of the returns prepared by his employees (despite evidence that he encouraged and sometimes required employees to include false deductions). Of that subset of tax...

To continue reading