When billionaire Robert Brockman died on August 5, less than three months after a judge declared him competent to stand trial in the largest tax fraud case in US history, the prospect of explosive public testimony also evaporated.
This newfound sense of calm is likely welcome news for another billionaire, Robert Smith, who signed a non-prosecution agreement with the FBI in 2020 and agreed to cooperate against Brockman and other possible suspects. The Brockman trial would have been the most prominent element of that deal — and another public relations fiasco for Smith, who has been working to make his mark as a prominent philanthropist.
“Smith got a lot,” said Neama Rahmani, a former federal attorney who has since co-founded a private law firm, West Coast Trial Lawyers. “He’s in pretty good shape right now because he’s now benefiting from the agreement without actually having to testify.”
Smith’s deal initially came as a surprise to Rahmani. The allegations against him were serious: According to a Justice Department press release, the private equity tycoon “deliberately failed to report more than $200 million in partnership income” to the IRS and used millions of dollars in undeclared funds to acquire real estate from the Globe.
Deals without prosecution are “very rare” in the Justice Department, Rahmani said. “I’ve put more than 1,000 people in federal prisons and never entered into a non-prosecution agreement.”
One reason is that prosecutors generally wait until after One person fully cooperated to give them a lesser sentence, Rahmani said. A precautionary deal is often “terrible legal work,” he added, because it’s an easy target for defense attorneys in court.
“If Robert Smith actually goes to court and testifies against … Brockman, he’ll be annihilated on cross-examination because defense attorneys will say, ‘The only reason you’re saying all that is because the government gave you this cooperation agreement, so You have every incentive to lie to save yourself,'” he said.
Rahmani stressed that he was not involved in Smith’s case and therefore could not speak on the government’s grounds for offering such seemingly favorable terms, although he said Smith clearly had the deep pockets to hire prominent lawyers.
“The hope is that these kinds of decisions are made based on facts and laws and not based on, you know, relationships or finances or any other consideration,” he said, “but clearly on the money and the lawyers.” and those kinds of relationships matter.”
As Bloomberg previously reported that Smith may also have discussed working with the government on a “national security matter” before reaching an agreement, although the details of that situation remain unknown.
Smith officials declined to comment. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Even after Brockman’s death, the investigations against him are not completely dropped. The criminal case is being dropped, but this has not happened because his death certificate is not yet available, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A civil investigation will be held against Brockman’s estate, said David Slenn, a partner at Akerman, who is writing a book on how the wealthy avoid creditors and taxes.
In the weeks since Brockman’s death, both the government and his attorneys have filed briefs in the U.S. District Court in Houston, arguing primarily over a so-called “compromise assessment” made against him — according to which the IRS seized disputed assets, believing them to be could be placed out of his reach.
Smith can’t quite put his tax problems behind him either. He may have to testify against his former attorney Carlos Kepke in the upcoming criminal trial. According to federal prosecutors’ allegations, between 1999 and 2014, Kepke Smith “helped create and maintain a structure of offshore corporations and foreign bank accounts designed to hide approximately $225 million in investment gains from the IRS.”
A 2021 Justice Department press release said Smith had paid Kepke more than $1 million since 2007, including “an annual payment to Kepke to delete or ‘securitize’ his records related to Smith,” an LLC with Based in Nevis, and a trust based in Belize. Kepke, 83, has pleaded not guilty.
When that process ends, Smith may finally be able to end his public tax saga. Perhaps headlines will then refocus on his highly publicized charitable donations, including a 2019 pledge to repay student loans for the entire senior year of Morehouse College and a $20 million gift to the National Museum of African American History and Culture .
In some corners of high society, Smith’s name is still hard to miss. He is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Hall, serves on Robert F. Kennedy’s Human Rights Council, and is a member of the Cornell Tech Council.
His rebound seems to be working. Last spring, for example, a new mobile cancer screening unit from Mount Sinai Hospital took to the streets of New York adorned with Smith’s name.
In response to questions from The Daily Beast at the time, a Sinai spokesman defended the decision to give Smith the naming rights and offered the billionaire a full-bodied endorsement that his own PR team could not have written better.
“We are very grateful to Robert Smith for his support and partnership,” she said. “Robert Smith is an incredible leader and philanthropist.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/billionaire-tax-cheat-robert-smith-wins-again-with-robert-brockmans-death?source=articles&via=rss Billionaire tax dodger Robert Smith wins AGAIN in Robert Brockman’s death