Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Weirdness In Weld County

Okay, this is a weird case...

In Weld County (northeast) Colorado, the sheriff's department took action after being alerted by a man in Texas that his identity had been stolen. The theft was traced to a translation service and tax preparer in Greeley which, the sheriff alleges was source of the identity theft.

According to the allegations, the proprietor was filing taxes for people knowing that the taxes were being filed using stolen identities. So, last fall, the Weld County District Attorney, with a warrant issued by the court, had the sheriff seize the tax records from the office of the preparer. The estimates of the DA are that about 1,300 of the tax returns filed for the previous tax year were filed on faked identification. More than sixty people charged with filing taxes on faked identification have already plead guilty to the charges.

This is more-or-less the point at which the American Civil Liberties Union has stepped in. Arguing that the information given to the tax preparer was privileged, they have sued to make the Weld County DA return the tax files and toss-out all the cases against the people who are alleged to have filed fraudulent tax returns.

Now, I am sure that those of you who are out there may be scratching your head about now... Since when did conversations between a person and their accountant or translator become privilege information? Granted, the tax preparer may have no reason (or right) to tell me or you, dear readers, anything about her clients, but a warrant bearing member of law enforcement? If they cannot seize records, where does this leave all the criminal cases that deal with things like Ponzi schemes and embezzlement? If I cannot seize the records of the accountants who supported the financial malfeasance, how do I build the case?

The DA went after the tax preparer once they received the complaint that a man in Texas had had his identity stolen and had traced it back to the tax preparer. The records seized proved to support the allegations. The people who had broken the law (or at least some of them) have admitted to their crime and have entered guilty pleas.

Granted, all people (regardless of their immigration status) who earn a salary in the US are required to submit a tax return, granted the IRS is forbidden to surrender their records, but the Weld County DA didn't go to the IRS.

Had the alleged illegal immigrants who are accused of identity theft prepared their own taxes, rather than using a tax accountant, the Weld County sheriff would have had no way of discovering their crime. Once again, as with the Ward Churchill case, the argument isn't that the law wasn't broken, but that if I hadn't broken this law you would never have known that I broke that law... where is the logic in that? I think I may have to quit watching the news. Ignorance is bliss; perhaps I just need to be rendered insensate.

Wherever you are today, I wish you a blissful day!

Don Bergquist - April 13, 2009 - Lakewood, Colorado, USA

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