Athens, Aegis, Heritage America
. . . Not the Place to Put Your Trust By:
Bill E. Branscum
Some of the Country's most infamous tax scheme promoters
are finally being shut down, perhaps putting an end to the pernicious
rumor that the government has allowed them to keep passing out the
Kool-Aid, so the IRS could keep tallying the body count.
The principals behind the Aegis Trust, Athens Trust,
and Heritage America Trust programs have been indicted, arrested
and their records have been seized. The government has expressed
the intention to seize their assets as well. Michael A. Vallone,
described as a founder, director, and principal of the scheme; Edward
B. Bartoli, a former South Carolina attorney, also described as
a founder, principal, and legal director of Aegis; Robert W. Hopper
of Gadsden, Alabama, another founder and also a managing director
of Aegis; Timothy Shawn Dunn of Chesterton, Indiana, a certified
financial planner who promoted and managed Aegis trusts; William
S. Cover of Naperville, Illinois, President of Sigma Resource Management,
an alleged trust manager for Aegis; and David E. Parker of Williamsville,
NY, an attorney who served as legal director of Aegis Management
Company, were all named in the initial Indictment.
The Superseding Indictment named Illinois attorney
John C. Stambulis, and Aegis promoter Michael T. Dowd of Glenview,
Illinois, as well.
This ridiculous party is over; if there really are
fifty-five hundred Aegis Clients out there, it is going to be quite
The "spin off" cases have already begun.
In addition to the Principals, various CPA's touting their trust
programs have been busted as well. Michael J. Maricle, Laura M.
Baxter, Donald J. Todd, Robert J. Clausing, . . . and a separate
prosecution in Cincinnatti involving: Wilson Moss Graham of Mason,
Ohio; Mitchell R. Graham of Loveland, Ohio; Homer Lee Richardson
of Loveland, Ohio; Barton L. Richardson of Lebanon, Ohio; Robert
L. West, a certified financial planner of Castle Rock, Colorado;
and Robert C. Welti, an accountant from Riply, Ohio.
As the government works their way through the Aegis,
Athens and Heritage America network, the CPA's selling this program
will fall as will those who used these programs, innocently or deliberately,
to commit significant tax fraud. Once the principals are convicted
(King Leonidas couldn't defend this), I think we can expect the
government to flip them, and use their testimony to prosecute their
network of CPA's, Clients, and their extended Clients (Clients of
Their Clients who are wealthy, well known celebrities,
or other hi-profile persons of interest are living on borrowed time.
If you get involved in the defense of one
of the Aegis Trust, Athens Trust, or Heritage America Clients,
stand by for Discovery. It won't be one of those truckload
discovery deliveries that we are all familiar with - a truck
wouldn't hold all this stuff.
Instead, I received a small, but heavy little package holding
a 500 GB Lacie drive. To put that in perspective, it would
take a team of investigators more than ten years just to glance
at every page.
One thing is for certain, being able to peak thru
the portal into the inner workings of this scam, and the mopes who
promoted it, is fascinating.
For example, Attorney Edward B. Bartoli, the sophisticated
legal expert, and financial advisor upon whose credibility Vallone
and company relied, filed a financial affidavit that his Clients
should have seen before they entrusted him with their finances .
. . he lives on Social Security checks of $526 a month, he reports
assets of $1500 cash on hand, and his lifestyle is apparently subsidized
by the occasional hand out from his wife.
Computer forensics is . . . well, "wonderful," or "frightening"
depending upon your perspective. Of the images on his various computers,
the picture of Michael Vallone as "Captain Vallone" struck
me as hysterically humorous.
I particularly enjoyed the E-mail
from Robert Hopper to Michael Vallone regarding Vallone's
"arrogant, arbitrary, sociopathic tendencies."
Hopper's closing remark to Vallone could easily be read as
a pointed double entendre, assuming Hopper was privy to the
extraordinary collection of pornography that Vallone kept
on his computer. I cannot publish any of his pictures, and
wouldn't if I could, but suffice it to say that the lovely
young "ladies" that dominate his fantasies are all
rather remarkably, not to mention "unusually," well
Then there are those pictures that appear homemade. I can
only say, "Michael, some people simply will
never look good in a wig, garters and hose."
They should have put it on the cover of the Aegis Manual,
"Let Captain Vallone take you and your finances
where no man has ever gone before."
I'll not apologize for deliberately ridiculing this clown. Can't
you just picture this self-professed tax expert in his Star Trek
uniform, drooling over pics of "Julie's Johnson," while
arrogantly insisting that he has the expertise necessary to be managing
other people's money, notwithstanding the fact that no competent
CPA, or ethical lawyer with any sense, could possibly endorse the
programs he promoted.
This knucklehead had no business leading hundreds, and perhaps
thousands, of trusting people down the path to their destruction.
When the indictments, arrests, criminal prosecutions, criminal convictions,
incarcerations, fines, penalties and forfeitures are all said and
done, I suspect that it will be hard to find anyone of their Clients
who does not regret entrusting their finances to the "Man
who would be Queen."
Make no mistake about it, there will be hell to pay. The government
has the lists of everyone who so much as communicated with these
people. In analyzing the Discovery in this case, we have identified
hundreds of potential witnesses; the records include their names,
personal information, contact points, family members, and in depth
information pertaining to their assets and finances - not to mention
the specific details of the "asset strategies" and "tax
plans" that these people bought into.
Anyone who thinks the government is not going through this material,
and putting together a hit list, is the king of wishful thinking.
Those of you who handle these sorts of cases can expect to be hearing
from some of these people.
UPDATE - This is an interesting article. Unless I
am very much mistaken, this portends the developments I would expect
in the future. Specifically, while the government works on prosecuting
the promoters (Vallone, Bartolli, et al.) some of the "professionals"
involved in promotion of these schemes will see the writing on the
wall and "roll over" in exchange for a deal. Unfortunately,
that "rolling" goes both ways - just as they will say
whatever they need to say to implicate the principals behind this
scheme above them, they can also be expected to roll downward, serving
the government's interests by testifying against their own Clients.
They will betray the very people that they defrauded, the very people
who trusted them, and paid them lots of money, to create a tax strategy
that they assured them would be legal, and viable.
Now before anyone writes me nastygrams, I have nothing
against a cooperating defendant - so long as he tells the truth.
In fact, I have had Clients who were victimized by
tax scheme promoters and sought help when the government began questioning
their tax strategies. In cases like that, I have been known to initiate
various UC operations targeting their promoters, the objective being
to document the snake oil these con men were selling, putting us
in the best possible position to "throw the mutts under the
bus" in exchange for a deal.
To me, in the world of "Proffers" where,
"The first cowboy with the cash gets the saddle,"
that makes nothing but sense.
Whether they are innocent scam victims unwittingly
engaged in criminal activity, or the masterminds themselves, when
potential defendants see the error of their ways and choose (quite
reasonably) to minimize their exposure by honestly assisting the
government in prosecuting the guilty, that's one thing. On the other
hand, lets keep in mind that tax scheme promoters like Michael Maricle
are professional con artists who make their living by lying. When
they roll over, the government often winds up with whores who are
willing to say whatever the government wants to hear.
Wayne C. Rebuck immediately comes to mind. You should
have seen that used car salesman turned Commonwealth Trust tax scheme
promoter roll over, testifying that his Clients always knew that
what they were doing was an illegal tax scheme. Claiming to have
been a minister, who somehow lost his way, he explained that his
testimony was an effort to get right with Jesus.
As for Michael J. Maricle, before anyone need think
about standing up for this mope, you'd do well to research the trial
of L.D. Stewart. Maricle was the government's star witness, and
he did a fine job explaining to all and sundry that Mr. Stewart
was a really nasty villain. Somehow, in his effort to get right
with Jesus, the penitent Michael Maricle must have forgotten to
tell the government that he had also embezzled a whole lot of Mr.
I guess he thought nobody would notice.
The defense did discover it, and when they brought
it up at trial, Maricle was exposed for what he was. Mr. Stewart
was acquiited, and I believe that Mr. Maricle's utility to the government
thus evaporated forever.
Maricle was sentenced to serve thirty months.
UPDATE: May 20, 2008 -- Justice by Jury; Convictions
Michael Vallone, Edward Bartoli, Robert Hopper, Timothy
Dunn, Michael Dowd and William Cover were convicted in federal court
regarding their tax scheme promotion. I wonder which of these clowns
will seek to reduce his sentence by testifying for the government
against the people who trusted them enough to buy into their nonsense.