“Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.”
-Coven (theme from the movie Billy Jack)
I saw a “pat on the back” news release from the Federal Trade Commission today. The headline said, “FTC Settlement: Tax Relief Scammers Agree to Pay More Than $15 million.”
If you go down a couple of sentences, it notes that the scheme bilked consumers out of $100 million dollars.
Crime does pay.
Making $100 million dollars, with the cost of getting caught at $15 million, is an $85 million dollar profit.
Most business, legitimate or illegitimate, will take an $85 million profit any day of the week.
The seminal book on crime, The Godfather, said, “a lawyer can steal more with his briefcase than 100 men with guns.”
Alexander Seung Hahn, the “leader” of the group American Tax Relief LLC, obviously used some of the $100 million to hire some excellent attorneys as he and American Tax Relief got a sweetheart deal.
In theory, the settlement order imposes a $103 million judgment but, according to the news release, “The judgments will be suspended once the defendants and relief defendants have surrendered assets that total more than $15 million, including cash, a home in Beverly Hills and a condo in Los Angeles, jewelry and gold items, and a 2005 Ferrari.”
In other words, everyone goes away happy as long as Hahn and his people fork over $15 million.
If they had walked into a tax relief center with a gun and robbed it of $85 dollars, not $85 million, they would spend several years in the pokey.
Instead, they have to suffer the indignity of giving up their Ferrari.
To some in Beverly Hills, giving up the house and Ferrari may be the same as breaking rocks, but it doesn’t seem the same to me.
I have never understood two things. One is why no one has cracked down on the “tax relief” people a long time ago. I rarely watch television, but see their nonstop advertisements. The Internal Revenue Service has a program called an “Offer in Compromise” where is it is theoretically possible to have your tax burden reduced, but it is rarely successful.
In 2008, the last year that I have statistics for, the Internal Revenue Service received 48,000 Offers in Compromise and only accepted 11,000.
I suspect very few of the successful offers came via the companies that advertise on television.
If anyone should be doing hard time, it should be the people running “tax relief” and “debt relief” scams. They prey upon the most desperate members of society.
If you are so far behind that you think that someone on the internet or answering an 800 number can help you, you are obviously at the end of your rope.
You are also probably financially disconnected. There are legitimate bankruptcy attorneys who may be able to help. I would rather take a chance walking into a local attorney’s office than paying an unknown “tax relief” specialist with a Ferrari.
Since a lot of poor and desperate people ponied up over $100 million, the tax relief scam business must be a good one.
The other thing that the “settlement” does is to show the ineffectiveness of the Federal Trade Commission. I am not sure why they are still in business.
When Elizabeth Warren and others pushed for and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Bureau seemed like a perfect “one stop shop” to go after things like “tax relief scams.” In theory, tax relief scams could be something that the Internal Revenue Service goes after. It also could be something where the Justice Department, state attorney generals, state consumer protection agencies or the Federal Trade Commission might consider it their turf.
I’m hoping that the FTC settlement does not preclude the CFPB or other groups from going after tax relief scams.
Or even worse. The FTC settlement showed that crime can have a big payoff. I just hope it does not encourage others to get into the same line of business.
As Glenn Frey said, “the lure of easy money has a very strong appeal.”
Especially to the tune of an $85 million profit.
Don McNay is the best-selling author of Life Lessons from The Lottery and Wealth Without Wall Street.
“Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Starting over at Head Start
All I ever wanted to be was a journalist. Having worked on my high school and college newspapers, I knew it was the career for me.
I love talking to people, listening to their stories, being creative every day and experiencing new things. But as you know, news happens outside the hours of 9 to 5, and my job here at the Register rarely stayed within that time frame.
They don’t make strawberries as they did back in the old days
I’m not inclined to go through my archives at the moment, but it almost feels like the column I’m about to write has almost become an annual thing over the years.
At least I know for sure that that this is not the first time that memories of picking strawberries there on Blair Branch on hot days in June has triggered this keyboard about this time of year.
I grew up on a little subsistence, hillside farm deep in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, among the coalfields near the Virginia line.
Baby boomers have let technology rob their grandchildren of the joys of youth
When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons along creek banks fishing together or in the woods hunting squirrels or pitching horse shoes or even shooting marbles late in the afternoon in the cool hours before dark.
Dads were teaching kids to play the games they grew up with. Little girls, learned from mothers,how to skip rope, play with jacks or play hopscotch.
No Lincoln or Douglas in this debate
Remember the famous slap-down in the 1988 vice presidential debate when Republican Dan Quayle compared his youth and limited government experience to those of John Kennedy’s when Kennedy ran for president?
His Democratic opponent, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, acidly replied: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Senate campaign already in full bloom
Any hope for a respite in the U.S. Senate campaign following Tuesday’s primary disappeared immediately.
Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes came out swinging in victory speeches which sounded like campaign kickoffs.
McConnell commended Matt Bevin on “a tough (primary) race” and appealed to Bevin supporters to unite behind his re-election bid. That will be hard for Bevin and those who backed him.
‘Taxpayer-eaters’ meet ‘self-serving politician-eaters’
What some candidates could gain in this year’s election – beyond just winning office – is a stark reminder of how wrong political leaders were when declaring last year they had adequately addressed Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.
Instead, legislators with serious courage deficiencies failed to agree on reforms beyond what they believe are “politically feasible.”
Step Out, Step up for Diabetes Association
Six weeks ago when I wrote here announcing the 2014 Edition of Team TKO’s American Diabetes Association, Step Out Walk Team, several dozen of you readers sent generous donations to sponsor grandson Tyler Kane Ochs (TKO) and me in the walk that takes place, rain or shine, in the mud or not, at Keeneland on the morning of May 31.
Another several dozen of you either called, emailed or dropped a card in regular mail and asked that I remind you again “after the holidays” (Easter and Mother’s Day).
Hitting the campaign trail
The most watched race in the country ? the battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Mitch McConnell ? has so far produced a bevy of charges and not much substance.
We haven’t seen that much of McConnell or his likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes out on the campaign trail.
McConnell’s primary opponent Matt Bevin has been much more active and visible, but his performance hasn’t enhanced his chances.
The case of the scary black cat
If Margie didn’t believe that black cats were the harbinger of bad luck, she certainly believed it when a black cat brushed against her leg while she was leaning over a large trash can burning garbage one late afternoon.
Startled by the sudden appearance of the feline, Margie opened her mouth wide and let out a blood-curdling scream that could have awakened Count Dracula himself.
Basking in the spring sunshine
If you had asked me, as recently as two weeks ago, to make a list of things I expected to see on the first Monday in May of 2014, two of the things that I actually did see would not have been on the list, even if you’d required that it contain at least 500 items.
I’d have been a bit skeptical about Ralph’s purple asparagus and his gorgeous snowball bush, both of which came through most admirably. And I would have had my doubts about the poppies that have been in our back yard for several generations and the bearded German Iris that Jeanette Todd gave us more than two decades ago. It faithfully stuns us there at the corner of the front porch every spring, but there they were, basking in absolute glory as the sun set Monday afternoon.
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