Mount Vernon tax preparer sentenced to prison

By Bill Heltzel

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Mount Vernon tax preparer Samuel Gentle recently was sentenced in federal court to 51 months in prison for filing false tax returns and obstructing the Internal Revenue Service.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York estimated that he had created losses of $734,425 in federal, state and local taxes over a seven-year period.

Asking for a shorter prison sentence, Gentle’s attorney argued that the government overstated the tax losses and exaggerated his “badness.”

U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel ordered Gentle to pay a $125,000 fine and $295,000 in back taxes and sentenced him to one year of supervision after he is released from prison.

The IRS has required several of Gentle’s clients — who underpaid taxes by an estimated $440,527 on 49 tax returns, according to a sentencing memorandum — to refile and pay taxes and penalties.

Gentle, 60, was found guilty of 39 tax violations after a five-day trial in July.

He ran GenGen Inc. and GenGen Financial Inc. at 35 Colonial Place in Mount Vernon, where he served many West Indian and Caribbean customers.

His scheme, according to the sentencing memo by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Beidel, was to build his business through word-of-mouth referrals. By claiming fake business expenses and gifts to charity, he reduced customers’ tax liabilities or got them IRS refunds.

Several clients testified at trial that they had not incurred the business expenses or given donations to charity and they did not know about the false deductions until told by federal agents.

The government also used an undercover IRS agent posing as a client in 2012. Gentle created deductions they had not discussed or documented and the tax return claimed a $574 refund.

The preparer also cheated on his own taxes. Gentle collected more than $1 million in fees from 2010 to 2014, according to an IRS analysis of his bank records, but only reported $584,270, enabling him to avoid $236,000 in taxes.

The sentencing memo cited a pattern of preposterous falsehoods during the trial and includes a statement the judge made after the jury returned its verdict. “I am trying to remember if I have ever seen a defendant lie so obviously, so repeatedly and so seemingly without any concern for the consequences,” Seibel said.

Beidel wrote that Gentle’s behavior was characterized by greed and a lack of respect for others or for the law. She asked for a significant prison term, 51 to 63 months, to deter others who might seek to cheat the government.

Gentle’s attorney from White Plains, Jared Scharf, asked for a lighter sentence of 33 to 41 months. “There is nothing about this case that makes Gentle a suitable candidate for harsher treatment than normal or for withholding lenient treatment,” he said in a sentencing memo.

Scharf calculated the total tax loss at $303,896, or 41 percent less than the IRS estimate, and said that amount calls for less prison time under federal sentencing guidelines.

He cited a dozen letters from friends, relatives and others that demonstrate a man who is hard-working, altruistic and devoted to his family.

“He is devastated by the impact this case has had on his family,” Scharf wrote. “His feelings of shame, humiliation and fear with respect to his family’s welfare are palpable.”

Vanessa Young, president of the Belize Diabetes Association of New York, in a letter to the judge said Gentle has championed the Belizean community and inspired people to help others.

Georgia Gillett, an immigration lawyer from Pembroke Pines, Florida, who grew up with Gentle in Belize, cited his support for a charity that feeds and clothes homeless people in their native country.

His college-age sons, Dwayne and Deon, wrote that their father’s values are rooted in a passion for helping others. “Love drives him every day,” they said.

Earnest Smith Jr., an 11-year-old student in Belize, sent a handwritten note addressed to “Mr. Sam,” thanking him for giving him a nebulizer that alleviates his asthma and enables him to stay in school.

“While the defendant’s generosity and good deeds are commendable,” Beidel wrote in her sentencing memo, “they do not rise to the level of extraordinary,” particularly given that his assets were derived from cheating the tax system and harming his clients.

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About the author

Bill Heltzel
Bill Heltzel has covered criminal justice, courts, government and sports – as a beat reporter and investigative reporter – for daily newspapers in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He worked for Bloomberg LP in training and sales. He joined The Business Journal in 2016.

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