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Sacramento attorney found guilty of tax-related charges

Prominent Sacramento attorney Donald Wanland was found guilty by a jury Thursday of maneuvering for years to avoid paying federal income taxes.

Wanland was convicted on charges of attempted evasion of taxes, failing to file tax returns and multiple instances of trying to conceal assets in defiance of Internal Revenue Service levies.

Evidence at trial showed that, instead of paying Uncle Sam, Wanland, 53, spent $2,700 on a weekend at Squaw Valley Ski Resort, made payments on his Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac Escalade, gambled at Las Vegas casinos, vacationed in Mexico and Hawaii, traveled frequently in limousines and maintained the pool at his El Dorado Hills home.

He also withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and wrote hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks out of concealed accounts, the evidence showed.

“Today’s conviction should send a clear message to those who cheat on their taxes,” said Jose Martinez, special agent in charge of IRS’ criminal investigation division. “In today’s economic environment, it is more important than ever that the American people feel confident that everyone is playing by the rules.”

The verdict was returned on the 11th day of trial, including two days of jury deliberations. Wanland is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 17 by U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton.

The judge ordered Wanland taken into custody after the verdict was delivered in early afternoon. Later in the day, defense attorney Eduardo Roy made a motion that his client be allowed to remain free on bail and electronically monitored home detention while an appeal is pending. Roy argued that Wanland is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community.

“In fact, Mr. Wanland spends much of his free time attending church-related activities, including serving as an usher on Sundays, attending a men’s Bible study group Thursday night and engaging in many community service activities,” Roy said in the motion. Karlton will hear arguments in the motion Tuesday.

Karlton is to decide Wanland’s punishment after considering applicable statutory factors and federal sentencing guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. He will likely be sent to prison for between five and nine years.

Evidence introduced at the trial by prosecutors Matthew Segal and Christopher Hales established that Wanland filed tax returns for 2000 through 2003 showing gross income of more than $1.5million, for which he admitted owing $448,451, but he paid nothing. When the IRS tried to collect, Wanland concealed the bank accounts he used to receive and disburse his income, and then filed no returns at all for 2004 through 2007. During those years, he received more than $1million from his law firm, according to the evidence.

When the IRS placed levies on his income in April 2005, Wanland repeatedly defied the levies by continuing to funnel his income through the concealed accounts, the evidence revealed.

Wanland has also had his troubles with the State Bar.

In 2002 he received a 30-day stayed suspension of his license and five years of probation for violating a bankruptcy court order to return a former client’s file. The court ordered him to pay a fine for each day he failed to produce the file, resulting in a total fine of $12,603. Later, the court fined him an additional $13,699 for contempt when he failed to pay the initial fine.

Although he met his probation obligations, he made restitution payments late, filed his ethics school certification late, and filed 12 probation reports after the deadline.

Wanland completed his probation in 2007. The next year, the State Bar charged him with probation violations tracing back to the late filings and payments. In 2010, a three-member panel of the State Bar Court found the bar’s delay in charging him with these violations was an overriding factor in mitigation and recommended a comparatively lenient penalty. He received a 90-day stayed suspension of his license and a year on probation.

Last year, his license was suspended for a week for failing to pay his bar dues.