Ex-Ernst & Young partners sent to prison, fined

Thu Jan 21, 2010 3:50pm EST
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two former partners at the Ernst & Young LLP ERNY.UL accounting firm were sentenced to prison on Thursday for their roles in a $2 billion scheme to help wealthy people evade income taxes.

Robert Coplan was sentenced to three years in prison and fined $75,000, while Martin Nissenbaum was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein also ordered each man to perform 120 hours of community service annually for three years. At least half of the service is to counsel tax professionals about their experiences.

Stein said his sentences reflected a need for "general deterrence."

Coplan's lawyer Paula Junghans and Nissenbaum's lawyer Isabelle Kirshner said their clients, each of whom were also lawyers, plan to appeal.

The defendants were among four former Ernst & Young partners convicted in May on tax evasion and conspiracy charges after a two-month trial.

Prosecutors said the pair defrauded the IRS from 1998 to 2006 by creating, marketing and using tax shelters to help people with more than $10 million of taxable income reduce or avoid income taxes.

Stein is scheduled to sentence the remaining defendants, Richard Shapiro and Brian Vaughn, on Friday, and said he intends to impose prison terms on each.   Continued...