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Ex-AG manager gets 3 years in tax case

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FOR THE RECORD: This story about the sentencing of former Attorney General’s Office administrator Elizabeth Kupfer on tax evasion charges that was published Wednesday reported that Kupfer knew political consultant Armando Gutierrez because she oversaw amendments to Help America Vote Act contracts with the Secretary of State’s Office. The contracts she oversaw were at the Attorney General’s Office. The story also incorrectly reported the amount of restitution she was ordered to pay. The correct amount is $288,339.

Elizabeth “Daisy” Kupfer, once a powerful administrator in the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison on three counts of federal tax evasion.

The crimes were connected to federal voter education funds paid to her husband’s consulting business. Daisy Kupfer, 50, was office manager and a signer on the bank account for Kupfer Consulting. At a jury trial last summer, she and Joseph Kupfer were found to have willfully avoided paying tax on $746,000, resulting in a tax bill of over $200,000.

Her defense attorneys, Erlinda Johnson and Todd Coberly, urged U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson not to make findings that would bump up her base sentence to a potential 41 to 51 months.

Responding to the defense argument that Daisy Kupfer’s criminal acts were aberrant ones in an otherwise law-abiding career, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tara Neda insisted the behavior was not out of character but had been going on for a long time.

The vast increase in income, she said, allowed the Kupfers to move from a modest home to one worth over $600,000.

The judge noted that the bulk of the couple’s income for the relevant time period came from the consulting business and that Daisy Kupfer was well aware of the Help America Vote Act contracts, especially since she had been “on loan” from the Attorney General’s Office to the Secretary of State’s Office at the time.

The record at trial established that Daisy Kupfer was aware of the amounts being paid, which were “extraordinary and disproportionate to other amounts paid” to the consulting firm, the judge found.

He allowed a slight variance from the recommended 41-month minimum sentence but said the probation urged by the defense was not appropriate.

Johnson also noted trial evidence showing that Daisy Kupfer was involved in amendments to the contract with Armando Gutierrez and Associates for funds under the Help America Vote Act.

“Taken together, I find the government has established by a preponderance of the evidence that Elizabeth Kupfer was a knowing participant in the theft of $746,000 in HAVA funds,” he said.

Both Kupfers were initially charged in late 2010 with tax evasion. Gutierrez, 65, of Corpus Christi, Texas, was added as a defendant in a superseding indictment, which added conspiracy and theft of government property charges against Joseph Kupfer and Gutierrez, and obstruction and money laundering charges against Gutierrez.

Joseph Kupfer and Gutierrez went to trial in January for conspiracy to steal voter education funds to the tune of at least $2.5 million — or “fleecing” as prosecutors called it. They were convicted but have not yet been sentenced.

Daisy Kupfer was ordered to pay $228,339 in restitution to the government, which will be owed together with her husband.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said in a statement that paying taxes is an obligation of citizenship, and when citizens dodge them, honest Americans end up paying more.

“The sentence imposed on Mrs. Kupfer should serve as a warning that those who seek to avoid their tax responsibilities will be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law,” he said.

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