An Alaskan plastic surgeon faces up to 95 years in prison after being convicted November 4 of tax evasion and wire fraud for hiding millions of dollars’ worth of assets in Central American banks while he was in the midst of a divorce, according to reports.
An initial complaint filed in 2012 stated that Dr. Michael Brandner, a plastic surgeon in Anchorage, Alaska, was in the process of divorcing his wife when he discreetly left the country in May 2008, driving from Alaska to Panama with approximately $3.25 million in cashier’s checks that were deposited in an account under a sham corporation called Dakota Investments of CA Inc. He ultimately deposited $4.6 million in that account by the end of 2008.
The scheme started to unravel after an individual in Panama who assisted Brandner with setting up the Dakota Investments account became a witness in an unrelated stock fraud scheme and was later used by the U.S. government to record phone calls with Brandner, during which Brandner admitted that he was intentionally hiding the assets from the court during his divorce.
Three years later in 2011, the Panamanian informant told Brandner in a call monitored by law enforcement that a tax treaty between the U.S. and Panama could potentially expose his ploy to the authorities, and he helped Brandner set up another sham company in Panama called Evergreen Capital LLC. Brandner then attempted to repatriate all of his hidden funds to an account he opened at a Bank of America branch in Seattle, but the funds were seized by the Homeland Security Department.
In 2014 the Justice Department and IRS announced charges against Brandner for three counts of tax evasion. The DOJ said that in three false returns, Brandner failed to report the existence of financial accounts in Panama and Costa Rica over which he had signature authority, and also failed to report foreign interest income of more than $9,000 for 2008 and more than $150,000 per year for 2009 and 2010. The DOJ indictment alleged that Brandner attempted to evade more than $600,000 in federal income taxes over the three years.
According to recent reports, Brandner was convicted on four counts of wire fraud and three counts of tax evasion, which carry a total maximum penalty of 95 years in prison and $1.75 million in fines.