Mary Estelle Curran, 79, pleaded guilty on January 8, 2013 to using foreign bank accounts to hide more than $42 million from the IRS. This is one of the largest cases in the continuing U.S. crackdown on offshore tax evasion. Federal authorities with the Justice Department said Curran failed to declare income from 2001-2007 when her husband died in 2000 leaving her Swiss and Liechtenstein accounts.
Curran, who lives in Palm Beach, owes taxes totaling approximately $667,716. She is looking at a penalty of 50% of the highest balance, which is $21,666,929. She also faces a possible prison term of up to six years.
Her attorney also said that Mrs. Curran tried to enter the voluntary disclosure program in 2009, but she was prevented from doing so because the Department of Justice had already received her account information from UBS prior to her efforts to enter the program. This factor should be taken into consideration in her sentencing and demonstrates the importance that clients considering making a voluntary disclosure should do so as soon as possible.
Curran is one of dozens of offshore banking clients caught hiding an offshore bank account. U.S. prosecutors have charged more than 50 U.S. clients and more than 20 bankers, lawyers and advisers in the crackdown. Prosecutions initially focused mainly on accounts held by UBS although they have quickly shifted to other foreign banks. After admitting its involvement in the tax evasion scheme in February 2009, UBS agreed to pay a $780 million fine. The Swiss government agreed that 4,450 names should be turned over to U.S. officials. UBS had disclosed Curran’s name to the American authorities. U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Wilfredo A. Ferrer warns U.S. citizens who seek to avoid their tax obligations. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to helping the IRS enforce our nation’s tax laws,” said Ferrer.