Every choice has a consequence! Regardless of how well thought out, no one will escape the consequences of their choices. As a business ethics and white collar crime speaker, I know from personal experience that you reap what you sow. While Trebert and others got by with their scheme for 5 years, the reality is the consequences of their actions will be far greater than any benefit they received.
In an update to a prior report, Gary R. Trebert, age 57, pled guilty to two counts of an indictment that charged him with various offenses related to his operation of nursing homes in Texas and elsewhere. Co-defendant Larry Gordon May pled guilty to his role in the conspiracy in October 2007 and co-defendant Stephen Michael Ewing, a/k/a “Stephen Michaels,” is scheduled to go on trial March 3, 2008. Today Stephen Michael Ewing was found GUILTY!
Well, Stephen Michael Ewing’s day in court has come and he’s facing what used to be partners who have now become bitter enemies. Gary R. Trebert, a Frisco attorney who was Ewing’s former business partner and turned states evidence as part of a plea deal he reached as he awaits sentencing. Obviously, he is hoping for a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines as he helps the government in its prosecution of Ewing, the only co-conspirator who elected to plead not guilty.
According to trial testimony and a report from the Star Telegram, Trebert’s role involved legal advice relating to the acquisition of nursing homes. Ewing oversaw operations and finances, according to Trebert. Larry May of Hurst, was reportedly a figurehead whose name would be used on nursing home and federal funding applications.
U.S. Attorney Richard Roper said, “This case is the one of the largest payroll tax fraud cases ever prosecuted in the U.S. Mr. Trebert admitted evading more than $34 million in payroll taxes – this is nothing short of egregious. Nursing homes should be safe havens for the elderly and vulnerable, not vehicles for criminals to commit fraud.”
Trebert admitted that beginning in August 1999 and continuing though mid-May 2004, he, Stephen Michael Ewing and Larry May conspired together, and with others, to defraud the U.S. by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions of the IRS in the ascertainment, computation, assessment, and collection of the revenue, that is, nursing facility employees’ withheld income taxes, social security taxes and medicare taxes, and HHS in the administration of the Social Security Act and the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Dennis Olson of Dallas, Ewings attorney stated, “You can be present when a crime is being committed and not be guilty of the crime.” Representing his client Olson said Ewing was interested only in a legitimate business and that he alerted federal authorities about the scam.
According to the government’s indictment as part of the conspiracy, Trebert and his coconspirators, using the names of sham corporate entities, obtained control of 70 licensed nursing facilities with thousands of patient beds and thousands of employees. In order to acquire control of these facilities, Trebert, Ewing and May used false statements and false and fraudulent documents including Applications for Nursing Facility License and Medicaid Contracts, Medicare Federal Provider Enrollment applications, ownership documents, IRS Employer Identification Number applications, Health Insurance Benefit Agreements, and Electronic Fund Transfer forms. Their falsifications included falsely identifying relatives as owners, operators, and managers of the nursing homes on the applications; failing to disclose staffing/payroll companies on nursing home applications; failing to disclose Ewing and May as the true owner/operators of nursing homes; and forging names of individuals on filed documents to divert responsibility away from the three defendants. Trebert and his co-conspirators used the false statements and documents to hide from HHS, state licensing and Medicaid agencies, and the IRS, the true control and management of the nursing facilities, their responsibility for more than $200 million in money derived from the nursing homes, and their responsibility for the nursing facilities’ residents.
More than 150 sham staffing/payroll entities, many with foreign business addresses at drop boxes in England and Austria, were created to file Form 941 employer withholding tax returns with the IRS, preventing the IRS from assessing and attempting to collect more than $34 million of unpaid payroll tax liabilities from Trebert, Ewing and May, and creating the appearance that these sham staffing/payroll entities employed more than 4500 nursing facility employees, when they did not. From time to time Trebert caused his coconspirator to fly to London in order to mail to the IRS the sham payroll/staffing companies’ false withholding tax returns.
Trebert admitted that he and his coconspirators diverted to themselves and their personal activities substantial sums of money derived from their nursing home operations and from the non-payment of employees’ withheld payroll taxes. Trebert also admitted that in April 2004, he attempted to evade and defeat the assessment and payment of more than $4,113,000 in withholding taxes taken out of employees’ pay at 42 nursing homes he and his coconspirators controlled.
“Evading employment taxes can have serious consequences for employers and their employees. Trebert’s guilty plea demonstrates that those who willfully attempt to undermine our tax system by playing fast and loose with the rules will be held accountable, regardless of how complicated a scheme they devise,” said Erick Martinez, IRS Special Agent in Charge for the Dallas Field Office.
In the plea agreement, Trebert will spend 8 years in federal prison. The trial results should be forthcoming. Then we will see if the “I just didn’t know” defense will hold up. More to come!