President of New Orleans City Council indicted on tax fraud charges

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A grand jury has indicted New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams and his attorney on federal tax fraud charges. 

United States Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana David C. Joseph announced the federal indictment.

The 11 count indictment comes as Williams' campaign to unseat New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro was set to get underway. 

The indictment accuses Williams of inflating his business expenses for several years and failing to report cash payments for legal services. 

Williams’ accountant, Henry Timothy, Jr., is a cooperating witness for the prosecution. 

Earlier this month Williams filed a civil lawsuit against Timothy claiming he lied about being a certified public accountant.

His suit alleges fraud and breach of contract. 

The Internal Revenue Service and the FBI had reportedly been working on the case for upwards of two years. 

Williams has said he felt the probe into his records were political and mainly the work of D.A. Cannizzaro. 

Cannizzaro responded to the allegation by saying Williams’ allegation was baseless and meant to divert attention away from the investigation. 

News Release from United States Attorney:

New Orleans Attorneys Indicted for Tax Fraud

 

          NEW ORLEANS, La. – United States Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana David C. Joseph announced that a federal grand jury in New Orleans returned an 11-count indictment today charging Jason R. Williams, 47, of New Orleans, and Nicole E. Burdett, 39, of Kenner, Louisiana, with conspiracy to defraud the United States, aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of false and fraudulent tax returns, and failure to file IRS Forms 8300 relating to cash received in trade or business..

 

According to the indictment, Jason R. Williams is the owner of Jason Rogers Williams &Associates, LLC Law Firm (JRWA), located in New Orleans. Williams also currently serves as a Councilman-at-Large on the New Orleans City Council. Nicole E. Burdett is an attorney at JRWA and performs administrative functions for the firm. Burdett is responsible for paying the law firm bills, receiving client payments, and inputting and maintaining the firm’s books and records in the accounting program “QuickBooks” and other software programs.

 

According to the indictment, Williams and Burdett conspired to reduce Williams’ tax liability for the 2013 through 2017 tax years by classifying personal expenses as business expenses on the “Schedule C” (Profit and Loss from a Business) portion of Williams’ tax returns. Specifically, for the 2013 through 2017 tax years, Burdett compiled QuickBooks information that included many personal expenses of Jason Williams and provided this false information to the tax preparer for the preparation of tax returns. Throughout the conspiracy, Burdett, at the direction of Williams, would instruct the tax preparer to artificially increase the business expenses on the Schedule C in order to further reduce Williams’ tax liability. After Williams and Burdett were satisfied with the tax liability amount, Burdett instructed the tax preparer to electronically file the returns with the IRS.

 

Throughout the course of the conspiracy, Williams’ and Burdett’s conduct caused fraudulent tax returns to be filed on behalf of Williams, which reflected inflated Schedule C business expenses in the amounts of approximately $200,000 for 2013, $90,000.00 for 2014, $170,000.00 for 2015, $140,000 for 2016, and $120,000.00 for 2017. These fraudulent tax returns reduced Williams’ tax liability in excess of $200,000.

 

The indictment further alleges that between June 2017 and August 2018, Williams and Burdett failed to file the required IRS Forms 8300 for receipt of cash payments over $10,000.  On five separate occasions charged in the Indictment, the defendants received and failed to report cash payments in excess of $10,000 from clients for legal services, totaling $66,516. 

 

If convicted, Williams and Burdett each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison on the conspiracy count, three years in prison on each false return count, and five years in prison on each count of failing to file Forms 8300. The defendants also face a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties. 

 

Assistant United States Attorneys Kelly P. Uebinger and David J. Ayo of the Western District of Louisiana are prosecuting the case. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the IRS-Criminal Investigation Division with assistance from the FBI.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana is prosecuting this case due to the recusal of the Eastern District of Louisiana U.S. Attorney’s Office.

 

The charges in the indictment are only accusations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

 

News release from Jason William's attorney:

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2020

STATEMENT OF BILLY GIBBENS,

ATTORNEY FOR JASON R. WILLIAMS

 

We are deeply disappointed that the government has chosen to indict Jason Williams simply for following the advice of his tax preparer.

We also question why the government would take such action against a declared candidate for Orleans Parish District Attorney less than a month before the campaign begins.

For years, Jason paid Henry Timothy, who held himself out as a CPA, to file his taxes. Every year at tax time, Jason would send his information to Mr. Timothy, and Mr. Timothy would prepare his returns. There was never any hint of a problem.

Last year, the IRS informed Jason that it believed some of his business expense deductions were inappropriate. These deductions were fully disclosed on Jason’s returns, and the decision to take these deductions was Mr. Timothy’s.

Initially, Mr. Timothy stood by his work. He assured us that he – not Jason – made all tax decisions, that he handled Jason’s returns the same as all his clients’, and that there was nothing wrong with Jason’s taxes.

However, after Mr. Timothy learned that he was under investigation by the IRS, he changed his tune and now claims that Jason “pressured” him to take improper deductions. That is a lie.

We have also determined that Mr. Timothy was not a CPA as he claimed, and yesterday a judge issued a court order prohibiting Mr. Timothy from continuing to represent himself as a CPA to the public, as he misled Jason for many years.

On behalf of Jason Williams, we ask that any former clients of Henry Timothy or B & B Accounting Services, LLC contact us at 504-680-6065, so that the truth will come out and Jason will not be penalized for Mr. Timothy’s actions.

Jason is innocent of these charges and looks forward to his day in court.

 

News Release from Nicole Burdett's attorney:

STATEMENT OF MICHAEL MAGNER, ATTORNEY FOR NICOLE BURDETT

We are disappointed and baffled that the government has chosen to indict an honest lawyer like Nicole Burdett for doing nothing other than forwarding her firm’s books and records to someone that she and Jason Williams both believed to have been a Certified Public Accountant.

Nicole is innocent of these charges and looks forward to her day in court.

Nicole and Jason Williams relied on Henry Timothy, who falsely held himself out as a CPA verbally and in writing, to file Jason’s taxes. Nicole trusted Timothy because he handled her family’s tax returns for many years.

Nicole took Jason’s accounting records to Timothy and picked up the tax returns when he was through.

When this matter first arose, Mr. Timothy truthfully told us that he made all tax decisions, and that he alone decided what deductions to take. He assured us that hewould never have done anything to hurt Jason and Nicole.

Now it appears that Mr. Timothy has decided to save his own skin by lying to the government. It also appears that the government, after aggressively investigatingTimothy for fraud, has chosen to turn a blind eye to the fact that Timothy has defrauded many other innocent people.

We have also determined that Mr. Timothy was not a CPA as he claimed, and we have obtained the attached court order prohibiting Mr. Timothy from continuing to represent himself as a CPA to the public.