Bloomberg News

Ex-UBS Client Heller Gets 45-Day Jail Term for Tax Evasion

January 24, 2012

(Updates with comment from defense lawyer in fourth paragraph.)

Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Kenneth Heller, a disbarred New York maritime lawyer, was sentenced to 45 days in jail for using an offshore UBS AG account to hide income from U.S. tax authorities.

Heller, 82, who pleaded guilty in June to three counts of tax evasion for the years 2006, 2007 and 2008, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kevin Castel in Manhattan. The parties agreed that the amount of taxes Heller avoided was between $400,000 and $1 million.

Heller, who faced as long as 15 years in prison, has cancer, memory loss and other physical and mental problems, according to a defense filing in which his lawyers asked that he not be imprisoned.

“He is in dire physical condition, has a very short life expectancy and is in constant pain,” Heller’s lawyer, Robert Fink, told Castel today. Heller has already paid a $9.8 million penalty to the Internal Revenue Service.

He was one of seven ex-clients of Zurich-based UBS arrested on the same day in 2010 and charged with hiding more than $100 million from the IRS. UBS admitted in February 2009 that it helped U.S. clients evade taxes. The bank avoided prosecution by paying a $780 million fine and turning over the names of U.S. account holders to investigators.

Wegelin & Co.

Fink said his client cooperated with prosecutors, who this month charged three Wegelin & Co. bankers with conspiring to help U.S. clients hide more than $1.2 billion from tax authorities. He provided information supporting the charges, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Massey said in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court.

Prosecutors recommended a sentence shorter than the 30 to 37 months that both sides agreed would be called for under federal sentencing guidelines, which are nonbinding.

Castel rejected Heller’s plea for a non-jail sentence, saying it was necessary to deter others from evading taxes.

“The sting and the pain of some period of confinement” was appropriate, the judge said.

Castel also ordered Heller to serve two years of supervised release and pay a fine of $180,000. Heller must surrender to begin his sentence on April 2, the judge said.

The case is U.S. v. Heller, 10-mg-742, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

--Editors: Andrew Dunn, Stephen Farr

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in Manhattan federal court at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net; Ian Thomas in Manhattan federal court at ithomas15@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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