Richard Hatch just might have gotten himself a new cellmate.

Jesse Ayala Cota, age 65, a former Internal Revenue Service district director, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the United States through his involvement in a tax fraud scheme promoted by the Topeka, Kansas-based “Renaissance, The Tax People, Inc.” Cota admitted liability for tax fraud of more than $1.3 million for which he earned $300,000.

The investigation into Renaissance has been ongoing for almost three years. The company, headquartered in Kansas, specialized in the “sale and service of home-based business packages.” What they were really doing, according to the IRS, Department of Justice and the US Postal Service (!) was engaged in illegal activities.

In addition to Mr. Cota, a number of other individuals have pleaded guilty in the scheme including Elizabeth Crotts, Alexander Federico, and James Kevin Foster. Altogether, individuals involved in the scheme are charged with costing the IRS more than $84 million due to tax fraud. There were a total of 148 charges in the scheme, including conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding the Internal Revenue Service and to commit mail and wire fraud, willfully assisting in the preparation of fraudulent federal income tax returns; mail fraud; wire fraud; money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering and engaging in monetary transactions in criminally derived property of a value greater than $10,000.

The government alleges that from June 1997 through April 2002, Renaissance was involved in a scheme to defraud the IRS and other individuals by marketing a program designed to sell individuals tax deductions through false, fraudulent and misleading representations. According to court papers, Renaissance claimed to provide tax support to its members in the form of tax return preparation, tax advice, and audit protection while promoting various inappropriate tax schemes. Further, the company went so far as to infer that the IRS had approved the Renaissance tax program, largely due in part to Mr. Cota’s involvement.

Cota faces a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison followed by up to three years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and liability for the costs of prosecution. Sentencing is scheduled for January 2008.

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney and tax writer.


    • Thanks for the suggestion. I’m good with infer – it means “to hint; imply; suggest.”

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