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Jack Fisher & James Sinnott Sentenced in Conservative Easement Scheme

In September 2023, a federal jury convicted Jack Fisher and James Sinnott in connection with allegations that they operated a fraudulent scheme involving the marketing and sale of “abusive syndicated conservation easement tax shelters” to high-income clients. According to a January 9, 2024 press release by the US Department of Justice, Fisher received a sentence of 25 years in prison, while Sinnott received a sentence of 23 years in prison. Two other individuals, Victor Smith and William Tomasello, pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme. Both are certified public accountants who pleaded to conspiracy to defraud the United States.

As federal prosecutors alleged, the scheme involved the sale of more than “$1.3 billion in fraudulent tax deductions, leading to a tax loss to the IRS of over $450 million.” Fisher and Sinnott promoted and sold conservation easement tax shelters “based on fraudulently inflated charitable contribution tax deductions,” promising their wealthy clients “deductions 4.5 times the amount the taxpayer clients paid to buy the deductions.”

In short, they raised funds to purchase land using holding companies, “then had the tax shelters cause those companies to donate the land or a conservation easement over the land – often within days or weeks of the land’s purchase.” The DOJ explained further:

To reach the inflated fair market value of the donations, Fisher and Sinnott primarily used appraisals of the conservation easements and fee simple land donations at valuations often more than 10 times higher than the price Fisher and Sinnott actually paid to acquire the property.

Prosecutors demonstrated that as part of their scheme, they “backdated and instructed others to falsely backdate documents to be presented to the IRS,” including false tax returns that claimed deductions based on false appraisals. Mr. Fisher, Mr. Sinnott, and their co-conspirators made more than $41 million from their scheme. As the federal government demonstrated, Mr. Fisher used these proceeds “to purchase luxury items, including a Mercedes Benz car, a Recreational Vehicle and trailer and a private jet,” and to purchase property. “In total,” the government found, “the defendants sold over $1.3 billion in fraudulent tax deductions to wealthy taxpayers through this scheme.”

Victor Smith and William Tomasello, meanwhile, also promoted and sold units in the tax shelters as part of the scheme, according to the DOJ. In connection with their involvement, Mr. Tomasello received commissions totaling about $525,072 from Mr. Fisher and Mr. Sinnott, with his accounting firm receiving more than $2.4 million. Mr. Smith received commissions of about $491,400. Both men, who have pleaded guilty, face up to five years in prison.

Carlson Law represents investors throughout the United States in claims against financial advisors and investment firms. If you or a loved one have suffered investment losses, please call us at 888-976-6111 or complete our contact form for a free and confidential consultation.

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