The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCHEINDLIN
SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, U.S.D.J.
Defendant Ephraim Lewis has pled guilty to tax evasion and to conspiracy to defraud the IRS and to evade taxes. In its Presentence Report, the Probation Department has recommended that the Court increase the defendant's offense level by two points for the use of sophisticated means pursuant to U.S.S.G. § 2T1.1(b)(2).
The defendant opposes this recommendation. The Government has the burden of establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the recommended sentencing enhancement applies.
From 1984 through 1992, the defendant participated in a tax evasion scheme created by his accounting firm. During those years, Mr. Lewis inflated his itemized deductions, thereby evading the full amount of taxes he owed. In order to achieve this goal, the accounting firm sent Mr. Lewis schedules listing amounts and fictitious payees for checks that he was to prepare. Mr. Lewis then drew checks payable to fictitious payees as indicated on the accountants' schedules. The accounting firm then deposited these checks in the twenty-six accounts it had created in the names of these fictitious payees. The accounting firm then transferred the funds to other bank accounts, taking 10% for itself and using the remainder to pay expenses, such as credit card bills, as directed by the defendant.
II. The Sophisticated Means Enhancement
Part T of the Sentencing Guidelines is the section addressing offenses involving taxation. The first subpart, § 2T1.1, addresses the crime of tax evasion. The base offense level is determined by the amount of the tax loss. Next, two specific offense characteristics are defined. The second, § 2T1.1(b)(2), states that "if sophisticated means were used to impede discovery of the nature or extent of the offense, increase by 2 levels." Application Note 6 states that:
'Sophisticated means,' as used in § 2T1.1(b)(2), includes conduct that is more complex or demonstrates greater intricacy or planning than a routine tax-evasion case. An enhancement would be applied for example, where the defendant used offshore bank accounts, or transactions through corporate shells.
The "Background" section of the Commentary explains that "although tax evasion always involves some planning, unusually sophisticated efforts to conceal the evasion decrease the likelihood of detection and therefore warrant an additional sanction for deterrence purposes." If the Court determines that "sophisticated means" were used, the base offense level must be increased.
In determining specific offense characteristics, a court must consider relevant conduct, as determined on the basis of certain factors set forth at U.S.S.G. § 1B1.3. The Guidelines require a court to consider
all reasonably foreseeable acts and omissions of others in furtherance of...jointly undertaken criminal activity, that occurred during the commission of the offense of conviction, in preparation for that offense, or in the course of attempting to avoid detection or responsibility for that offense.
U.S.S.G. § 1B1.3(a)(1)(b). Application Note 2 defines a "jointly undertaken criminal activity" as "a criminal plan, scheme, endeavor, or enterprise undertaken by the defendant in concert with others, whether or not charged as a conspiracy." There is no question here that defendant's acts were taken in concert with the acts of the accounting firm. Thus, the defendant is responsible for all of the acts taken by the accounting firm in furtherance of their jointly undertaken criminal activity and all of the acts that ...