On August 9, David Cypress, the former council representative for Big Cypress reservation to the governing Tribal Council of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, was sentenced by United States District Judge Kathleen Williams to 18 months imprisonment, followed by one year of supervised release according to a United States Department of Justice press release.
The sentencing was announced by Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and José A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office.
Cypress had pled guilty to one count charging him with filing a false 2007 United States federal income tax return, in violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(1) according to the release.
Cypress, according to court documents, was a council member from 1999 to June, 2010. While in his role as a council representative, he had the authority to authorize distributions to Tribal members, including himself and family members. He admitted while in this capacity he authorized substantial distributions for himself and his family.
The release stated that “Cypress received approximately $285,433 in taxable distributions from The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which he knowingly and willfully failed to report on his 2007 federal tax return. The unreported income consisted of payments made to certain vendors for personal expenses paid on his behalf. The vendors would submit vouchers requesting payment to The Seminole Tribe of Florida, which were coded to conceal the fact that Cypress was the beneficiary of the payments and falsely described the reason for payment. Cypress authorized payment of these vouchers knowing the true basis of the request for payment, and that he was to be the beneficiary of the payment. Correct copies of the vouchers were also provided by the vendors, then destroyed.”
Cypress agreed to pay $5,457,889 as restitution to the IRS, as part of his plea agreement. The figure includes tax, interest and penalties from 2003-2009 that the IRS determined are due and owing by him as of March 15, 2012.
“Indian tribal members are individually responsible for reporting and paying taxes on the benefits and payments received from their tribes. Willful failure to file accurate income tax returns can result in severe criminal consequences,” Gonzalez said in the release. “Our justice system penalizes those who file fraudulent tax returns and intentionally evade paying their fair share of taxes.”