Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cincinnati Attorney Pleads to Tax Obstruction (5/3/12)

Suzanne Land, a Cincinnati attorney, has pled to one count of tax obstruction, Section 7212(a), here, a three year felony.  The DOJ Tax press release is here.  I will obtain the guilty plea when available and post it.

The press release describes her conduct as follows:
According to the plea agreement and statements made in court, to conceal from the IRS the deficiencies in the documents that she drafted for her wealthy clients, Land forged the posthumous signatures of both her deceased clients and their living children on amendments to the documents. Land also misled an appraiser as to the value of the estates, created fake legal invoices that reflected work she never performed, and lied to the IRS about the circumstances surrounding the creation of the amendments. According to the terms of the plea agreement, Land admitted that the "relevant and foreseeable" tax loss that could have resulted from her obstruction was approximately $1,140,636.
I don't have the plea agreement yet, so don't know whether it sets forth the parties' understandings and agreements as to the sentencing guidelines components.  However, my rough calculation suggests a sentencing range of 30-37 months.  The cap on sentencing will, of course, be 3 years because she pled to a single Section 7212(a) count.  I will fine tune that calculation when I get the plea agreement.

Addendum on 5/9/12:  I have obtained 2 pages of the plea agreement, here, with the rest under seal.  The unsealed portion (2 pages) gives some details within the scope of the general statement in the press release.  The plea agreement states:  "LAND was motivated to take these actions because she feared a malpractice suit from the administrator of her client's estate."

My web search indicates that Ms. Land was an accomplished and respect attorney.  Her bio at a law firm is here. Th bio may not be there for long so I cut and pasted the following:
J.D., Case Western Reserve University School of Law, (summa cum laude, 1990)
B.A., Economics and Political Science, Youngstown State University, (summa cum laude, 1987) 
Suzanne Land is a Partner in the Corporate Department and member of the firm's Family Wealth Planning Practice Group. Suzanne's practice is concentrated in estate and gift taxation and planning, business succession planning, asset protection planning, charitable tax planning, elder care law and planning for beneficiaries with special needs. Suzanne handles a variety of matters relating to estate  and gift tax minimization and asset protection strategies, family wealth transfers and planning giving techniques for charitable gifts. Such matters include wills, revocable trusts, family limited partnerships and limited liability companies, installment sales, grantor retained annuity trusts, residence trusts, private family foundations, charitable remainder and charitable lead trusts as well as the special planning issues that arise with retirement plans and individual retirement accounts.       
Suzanne also represents individuals and family business owners involved in real estate development, manufacturing, health care, financial services and many other industries and is familiar with the tax issues and opportunities unique to each profession. In addition, she has significant experience in assisting families with special needs due to elder care issues and issues arising in families with disabled children. 
Memberships & Affiliations  
Cincinnati Bar Association
Ohio State Bar Association
Kentucky State Bar Association
University of Cincinnati School of Law, Adjunct Professor teaching courses in Estate Planning and Gift and Estate Tax (1998 to present)
United Way, Tocqueville Society, Founding Member of Cincinnati Women's Leadership Council
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky, Chairman of the Board of Trustees (2009-2011)
Peer Review Rated AV in Martindale-Hubbell
Listed in The Best Lawyers in America®
Selected for the Ohio and Kentucky Super Lawyers® List
Selected as a Cincy Leading Lawyer by Cincy Magazine
Worth Magazine/The Robb Report – Top 100 Estate Planning Attorney in the Nation (2005-2007, 2009)
I felt a sense of sadness in reading these materials and preparing this blog entry.  Perhaps it is because we are members of the same lawyer "tribe."  Perhaps it is because she seem to have so much going for her.  I can hardly imagine what would  have driven her to do this.  But, then, all I have is the cryptic data set forth above.  I am reminded of this discussion I read recently on 3Quarksdaily here:

There is the apocryphal story in which Hemingway, sitting in a bar somewhere in Key West, is asked by an antagonistic admirer to follow his minimalism to its logical outcome and to tell a story in six words.  As the story goes, Hemingway picks up a napkin and writes out the following words: 
For sale: baby shoes, never worn. 
This is a pretty good story. The reader has to kind of inhabit it and fill in all that is unsaid (which is pretty much everything), but there’s an inexhaustible sadness there in the spaces between the words.  Everything pared away until there’s almost nothing left. The iceberg theory of fiction.


  1. Very sad to hear that an otherwise accomplished and experienced estate planning attorney made some unwise choices.

    While this is sheer speculation, I would think that Suzanne's "greed glans" got the best of her. Now, she must contend with the "new normal" -- the loss of her licenses to practice law and possibly her freedom. I want to think that her life's road is still "under construction" and wish her well in her redemptive/rehabilitative process.

  2. Greed, ego, pride, fear, what else would lead her to do this? Whatever the reason(s), there is no excuse and she should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and never be able to practice again. I feel sorry for her family. Maybe one day in the distant future she will be able to earn back the trust of those she so carelessly threw away, maybe not, but that's her problem.

  3. I have no sympathy for crooks. Believe me, this wasn't the first time she did it. She finally got caught for her arrogance. Have sympathy for the victims and not her. I hope she gets the max!!

    1. To Anonymous May 4, 2012 05:53 AM

      I suggest that you don't know the whole story. I don't either. But my experience suggests to me that it is more nuannced that you present it. And, thank goodness (even thank God) that judges can take nuance into account Portia said this best in the Merchant of Venice:

      The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
      It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
      Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
      It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
      'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
      The throned monarch better than his crown;
      His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
      The attribute to awe and majesty,
      Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
      But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
      It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
      It is an attribute to God himself;
      And earthly power doth then show likest God's
      When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
      Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
      That, in the course of justice, none of us
      Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
      And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
      The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
      To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
      Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
      Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

      I have not take out the rough edges in this quote, becuase I thin the power of mercy shines through.

      I suggest that, that while Ms. Land must pay some price for her conduct, the price be determined by someone other than me or by you. In our system of justice, it is the judge's duty to punish wisely and fairly and with the knowlege that there is a soul who is worthy, despite his or her misdeeds, in every defendant.

      And, I would suggest that if the point is retribution, she has surely suffered it. Just projecting from my personal perspective, the punishment she will suffer from this "outing" -- reputational from the community and from her own coming to grips with herself -- is major punishment. The judicial punishment is required, but let's leave it to the judge to make sure that the punishment fits the crime and that, in the final analysis, mercy is tempered with justice.

      Jack Townsend

    2. I agree with Mr. Townsend. No one knows the whole story. Perhaps she was trying to protect her paralegals for making errors. they are usually the ones that do all the paperwork. I don't think prison is warranted; probono work, community service,fines, etc. She has two young kids. Why should she do more time than a drug dealer?

  4. I was just wondering if you could post the pages of the plea agreement that you were able to obtain.

    1. I have just posted a link to the 2 pages from the plea agreement. The link is in the body of the blog, but also is here


      Jack Townsend

  5. On August 7, 2012, Suzanne Land was sentenced to (5) years probation, (3) years of home detention and a $75,000 fine for her admittedly obstructing and impeding the IRS. Intersting how one of the "best" lawyers in Ohio and Kentucky is now a convicted felon and the story doesn't make it into the news.

  6. Thanks for the update. I did a good search and could only find the State of Kentucky order of suspension based on her conviction. That order is here:

    An odd thing about the order, however, is the following paragraph:

    SCR 3.166 requires the automatic suspension of an attorney from the practice oflaw upon conviction of a felony, effective the day following the finding of guilt by the jury. The purpose of this order is to memorialize and confirm the fact that Respondent was automatically suspended from the practice of law in Kentucky, effective May 3, 2012, by the action of SCR 3.166 beginning one day after her conviction and said suspension continues in effect until dissolved or superseded by subsequent order of this Court.

    As quoted in the order, the Rule requires suspension "effective the day following the finding of guilt by the jury." Ms. Land pled guilty, so there was no finding of guilt by a jury. There may be interpretations which explain this apparent discrepancy, but the court does not offer the interpretations.

    Jack Townsend


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