Yesterday a federal district court judge handed down a highly unusual sentence in a criminal case involving a UBS accountholder. See United States v. Curran (S.D. Fla.). The defendant was a 79-year-old widow who inherited more than $43 million in bank accounts at UBS in Switzerland following her husband’s death. The defendant pleaded guilty and was facing up to 37 months in prison. She also paid a penalty of $21.6 million, which to date is the single largest civil penalty imposed in any of the offshore bank account prosecutions brought by the Justice Department. The defendant attempted to make a voluntary disclosure of her UBS accounts to the IRS as part of the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, but her disclosure was too late because the IRS had already obtained her name and account information from the Swiss government.
In sentencing the defendant, United States District Court Judge Kenneth Ryskamp imposed a sentence of one year of probation, and then immediately revoked the sentence, resulting in a probation sentence of no more than a few seconds. The judge then went further and criticized the government for bringing criminal charges in this case, noting, “This is really a tragic situation. It seems to me the government should have used a little more discretion.” The judge suggested that the defendant seek a presidential pardon and added, “[i]f the government doesn’t join in that, it’s just spiteful.”
While the DOJ has to date criminally charged a significant number of UBS account holders (as well as bankers, attorneys, and investment advisors who assisted U.S. taxpayers in opening and maintaining offshore accounts), this latest case is yet another example of relatively light sentences being imposed by judges in these cases. In a prior post, we noted that the sentences in the offshore bank account criminal cases have largely been probation-only sentences, with few judges requiring defendants to serve jail time.