The tax case against a Rio Rancho couple accused of failing to report more than $750,000 in income from consulting work that included Help America Vote Act funds began Monday in court with testimony from an Internal Revenue Service supervisory auditor.
Joseph and Elizabeth “Daisy” Kupfer are charged with receiving income in tax years 2004 through 2006 totaling $1.3 million but reporting income of only $502,000, thus avoiding tax on $768,333 by signing fraudulent returns.
The unreported income was to Kupfer Consulting, Joseph Kupfer’s business, and included numerous checks from A. Gutierrez and Associates, owned by co-defendant Armando C. Gutierrez of Corpus Christi, Texas.
The Kupfers were charged with tax evasion in December 2010.
Gutierrez was added to the indictment, along with additional criminal charges of conspiracy and theft of government property related to the federal HAVA money, in July 2011. Trial on those newer charges is scheduled in the fall, also before U.S. District Judge William P. “Chip” Johnson.
The Secretary of State’s Office administered almost $20 million in HAVA money after passage of the act in 2002.
The federal case is distinct from, but related at least in subject matter, to a 2009 state criminal case against former Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, who is not named in the federal case, as well as Gutierrez and the Kupfers. The state charges include fraud, money-laundering, tax fraud and kickbacks. A hearing was conducted in the state case simultaneously with the federal trial, in which Vigil-Giron is seeking dismissal because of violations of the Speedy Trial Act.
Judge Reed Sheppard, who heard oral argument on the speedy trial motion and two other motions, did not immediately render a decision.
Meanwhile, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Neda told jurors in her opening statement that the Kupfers are charged with “underreporting – or more simply, cheating on taxes.” Although the Kupfers did pay tax on “what they chose to report,” they did not pay taxes if a client failed to send a 1099 form showing the amount paid. In 2006, the unreported income was $484,000, she said.
Defense attorneys Todd Coberly, representing Elizabeth, and Billy Blackburn, representing Joseph, stressed the intent that is part of the government’s burden in proving its case.
“Intent is woefully lacking,” Coberly said. There are no cash withdrawals from bank accounts, no Cayman Island accounts, no accounts in Swiss banks, he said.
Coberly said Kupfer was good at making money and not so good at keeping accounts, and he became “overwhelmed.”
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal