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Yacht broker gets 2 months prison in UBS case

/ Source: The Associated Press

A Florida yacht broker who admitted filing a false U.S. tax return and concealing millions of dollars in a secret account at Swiss bank UBS AG was sentenced Friday to two months in prison.

U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn gave 58-year-old Robert Moran credit for immediately confessing his crime and for assisting U.S. investigators in a broad probe into tax evasion at UBS and other offshore banks. Cohn also noted that Moran, a British-born U.S. citizen, had fully paid the $1.9 million in penalties and back taxes he owed.

But Cohn said "the public is weary" of people trying to hide wealth from the Internal Revenue Service and rejected Moran's request for a sentence of only probation.

"It's not necessarily the money involved, it's the deception," Cohn said.

Moran, who is scheduled to report to prison Jan. 4, in April became the first UBS client in the U.S. to plead guilty after the Swiss bank provided federal prosecutors with about 150 names of suspected American tax evaders. Since then, the bank reached a second agreement that calls for disclosure of 4,450 additional U.S. taxpayers to the IRS.

Moran is the third former UBS client to be sentenced in the past two weeks in South Florida for filing false tax returns, one getting house arrest and the other a short prison term. In total, seven ex-clients have been charged since the latest crackdown began, with dozens more under investigation.

Defense attorney Gary Bagliebter said Moran, president of Moran Yacht & Ship Inc., would lose his yacht broker's license because of the felony conviction and faces an uncertain business future. The company has offices in Fort Lauderdale and Moscow.

Moran accepted full responsibility in remarks to the judge. He had about $3.5 million in his UBS accounts.

"I'm really sorry for opening this foreign bank account and not disclosing it," Moran said. "I realize it was a mistake."

Moran had faced a maximum of a year and four months in prison under sentencing guidelines. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Nieman recommended a seven-month sentence because of Moran's help, leaving it up to Cohn whether that should include prison time.

"He provided information and he did so early," Nieman said.

The prosecutions of Moran and the others have triggered a wave of people coming forward to voluntarily disclose their offshore accounts and pay their debts to the IRS. Officials recently said about 7,500 taxpayers have come forward this year, compared with only about 100 in a typical year.