Near-80-Year-Old Millionaire Pleads Guilty to Offshore Tax Evasion

January 28, 2013
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Offshore Tax Evasion

An elderly heiress and charity benefactor pleaded guilty in a Florida courtroom to sheltering tens of millions of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service in an offshore account. 

Mary Estelle Curran, 79, admitted to violating federal tax law by failing to report more than $43 million that she hid in a number of offshore accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein between 2001 and 2007. The large amount of money she was able to hide from authorities makes the case one of the largest of its kind.

Curran is well-known in her Palm Beach community not only for owning a luxury home estimated at $3 million dollars, but also for her considerable charitable contributions. She has provided funding to several organizations of the years, including the Opportunity Inc. Early Childhood Center and the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults. She inherited the offshore accounts from her late husband, who passed away in 2000.

Curran will be forced to pay roughly $21.7 million in tax penalties following her admission of filing false tax returns. She will also be required to file amended tax returns for the years in question and pay $667,716 in overdue taxes, penalties and interest. In addition, the heiress faces up to a maximum of six years in prison. Sentencing will be held on March 29, 2013.

This tax evasion lawsuit is one of many that have been taken up by the Justice Department and the IRS in recent years, as it cracks down on unlawful offshore account activity. Currently, the two federal agencies are investigating dozens of individuals who have used offshore accounts as a safe haven for hiding income from the IRS.