Lawyer wants criminal tax case separated from Scott Tucker

Lawyers for a Shawnee who was indicted in 2017 in a criminal case of tax fraud say he cannot be fairly shaken up if he is to be tried with his co-accused Scott Tucker, a notorious and already convicted payday loan mogul.

W. Brett Chapin, who practices tax and accounting law, filed a petition in the US District Court in Kansas this month to request a separate trial. A 2017 federal grand jury indicted Chapin and Tucker for failing to report millions in taxes on Tucker’s income from 2008 to 2011.

Tucker, a former professional race car driver from Leawood, was convicted in 2017 by a federal jury in New York in a separate criminal case for running a $ 2 billion payday loan business which prosecutors say embezzled 4.5 million borrowers with deceptive and illegal short-term consumer loans. . A judge ordered Tucker will serve more than 16 years in prison.

Chapin was charged with preparing Tucker’s allegedly false tax returns. He pleaded not guilty.

Chapin’s motion said that Tucker’s widespread public scrutiny, particularly the attention paid to himself through his participation in a Netflix documentary titled “Dirty Money” which chronicles Tucker’s wrongdoing, would make it difficult for a jury to independently assess Chapin’s guilt or innocence if the two are tried together on the tax evasion charges. Chapin’s lawyers said their client had done nothing to draw public attention to himself.

“The smoke and fire from evidence of Tucker’s wrongdoing will rage until an unfair conviction of Mr. Chapin simply because the jury could not see him clearly,” reads the petition from Chapin’s attorneys, Lance Sandage and Sarah Hess. “Even just sitting at the defense table with Tucker unnecessarily increases the risk of clouding the jury’s judgment. “

Chapin’s attorneys point out that Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, at a hearing in January on Tucker’s appeal against a $ 1.3 billion judgment against him in a civil case brought by the Federal Trade Commission, appears to have formed an unfavorable opinion about Tucker.

“I mean, he was sentenced” Barrett told a lawyer representing Tucker and his payday loan companies in oral argument on Jan. 13. “He has the dubious distinction of being the subject of an episode of ‘Dirty Money’ on Netflix.”

Chapin’s attorneys used Barrett’s observation to illustrate his broader perspective on a jury jointly evaluating Tucker and Chapin.

“Put simply, if even a United States Supreme Court justice is biased against Mr. Tucker because of his conviction … and openly calls him a ‘dubious’ defendant with unclean hands who has’ violated the law, “how can you expect a jury member to remain impartial against Tucker? Says the motion. “And if we can’t expect a juror to remain impartial against Tucker, isn’t this the perfect case study of detrimental overflow to a co-defendant, Mr. Chapin.”

Barrett and the Supreme Court heard arguments lawyers for Tucker, as well as those for the Federal Trade Commission, in an appeal from the $ 1.3 billion judgment the consumer watchdog secured against Tucker and his payday loan business in 2016. It was the largest disputed sanction obtained by the FTC.

In appealing Tucker’s sanction, his lawyers argue that while the FTC can seek injunctions and restraining orders to prevent companies from scamming consumers, he cannot ask for reparation – restitution of ill-gotten goods – by litigation on behalf of victims.

A lower appellate court hearing Tucker’s appeal upheld the decision to seek restitution from Tucker. But another circuit of the appeals court in an unrelated case took the opposite position, that the FTC cannot seek restitution.

While the FTC has requested $ 1.3 billion from Tucker and his companies, it is clear that the agency will recover well below that amount.

During the January Supreme Court hearing, an FTC attorney said much of the money Tucker and his businesses raised from borrowers through deceptive loans is spent and gone.

“We’re not going to get the $ 1.3 billion,” FTC attorney Joel Marcus told the Supreme Court. “A lot of it has been spent and no longer exists and, you know, Tucker is now judgmental for the most part. But there were bank accounts, houses, race cars, whatever, assets that were foreclosed on that are basically held in trust forever. “

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Steve Vockrodt is an award-winning investigative journalist who has worked in Kansas City since 2005. His areas of interest include business, politics, justice issues, and late-breaking investigations. Vockrodt grew up in Denver and studied journalism at the University of Kansas.

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