Tax fraud subject continues to pique interest of attorney

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 By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News
 
Tax evasion is a major problem in this country, according to attorney Richard Zuckerman, who teaches a class in Tax Fraud at Cooley Law School.
 
“It does appear that there is, as they say, ‘a lot of self-help going on out there’ when it comes to the reporting of income or the taking of deductions,” he says.
 
The Internal Revenue Service was previously more focused on tax cases involving failure to report illegally earned income, but in recent years has re-focused on audits and investigations involving lawfully earned but underreported income—“most likely, because those audits, as opposed to audits of those engaged in illegal activities, yield the payment of back taxes,” Zuckerman says.
 
A partner at Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, & Cohn LLP in Detroit, and co-chair of the white-collar criminal defense and investigations practice group, Zuckerman is recognized as one of America’s leading lawyers in the Litigation/White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations field in Michigan.
 
His Tax Fraud class is an advanced federal criminal law class taught from the perspective of clients undergoing civil audit or criminal investigation by the IRS.
 
“Students have to learn not only general federal criminal concepts but also the organization and procedures of the IRS, many of which are counter intuitive,” he says. “You have to be able to blend and master two separate legal disciplines.”
 
Zuckerman previously taught for almost two decades as an adjunct professor at Detroit College of Law/Michigan State University College of Law, and also as an instructor of Tax Fraud for an IRS Course for senior special agents.
 
“Besides the reward of teaching, Cooley’s physical plant and the resources available to students are very impressive, as are those at MSU,” he says. “I enjoy seeing students learn, enjoy what they are learning, and becoming enthusiastic about the practice of law.”
 
Zuckerman notes the place to get the necessary experience for a career in his field is as a federal prosecutor.
 
“There are many things a defense lawyer should know about ‘white collar investigations and prosecutions’ that takes much longer to learn if you haven’t prosecuted—for example, how to conduct grand jury investigations, how to authorize, conduct and defend electronic surveillance, how to authorize and supervise searches, how the federal government, and, in particular, investigative agencies, work,” he says. “While there’s no formal study, it’s my opinion that it can take 10-15 years of private practice to equal four years of investigative and trial experience as a federal prosecutor.”
 
His own path started in 1967, after graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in political science, with a concentration in International Relations and Russian Government, followed by four years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy. His first six months were spent at the Navy Supply Corps School and then Navy Cryptology School, and the next 18 months on the USS Northampton, known as the “President’s Ship” because it was an afloat White House to be used in case of war. His last two years of service, 1969-71, was as the senior logistics officer on the staff of the Commander, Naval Special Warfare Group Pacific, based in Coronado, Calif., where the staff’s responsibility was planning and supporting Special Warfare ops in Vietnam and Southeast Asia in general.
 
At the end of that tour, Zuckerman faced a choice: to stay in the service or try his hand at something else. With somewhat of an interest in being a lawyer and with the encouragement of family, he left the service for law school.
 
“It was more like ‘Okay, now what?’ than ‘I want to become Perry Mason,’” he says.
 
At Southwestern Law School he set his sights on becoming a civil tax and real estate lawyer, and won American Jurisprudence book awards in real property and tax.
 
“But I also really liked criminal law and procedure and evidence, so, when the Department of Justice interviewed me at the law school, it hit me that I could merge all of these interests together as an Organized Crime Prosecutor, assuming of course I could get hired by the department,” he says. “When I decided to leave the Department of Justice, it was just natural that I would use my experience and skills for the defense. I thought of becoming a civil-type lawyer, but that would have bored me to death—with apologies to all the civil lawyers out there.” 
 
From 1974-78, Zuckerman was an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice Organized Crime and Racketeering Section/Detroit Strike Force where he supervised complex, multi-agency investigations and prepared and tried criminal cases developed from those investigations. Being a prosecutor in the Organized Crime Section is a performance of a significant public service, he says.  
 
“We never doubted what we were doing or why,” he says. “That really was the greatest reward and enjoyment. Conducting organized crime investigations involving smart, clever, tough adversaries, who sometimes employed unorthodox methods of self-help, and then participating in the resultant prosecutions against the best of the defense bar was a rare challenge and opportunity for any lawyer. During my tenure, much was happening on the Organized Crime front in Detroit—so there was, as they say, never a dull moment.” 
 
His experience as a trial attorney with the Department of Justice included the federal income tax evasion case of Anthony Giacalone; and U.S. v. Richard Enright, former Chief of Police of the City of Ecorse, the first major case in the Eastern District of Michigan involving police protection of an illegal gambling business. 
 
Zuckerman was also one of three attorneys in charge of investigation into the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa; and was the attorney in charge of the investigation into hidden ownership and management of the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, resulting in a case against former Genesee County Prosecutor Robert Leonard. 
 
He has been plaintiff counsel in a number of significant matters, including Detroit Free Press v. City of Detroit, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Christine Beatty, et al., the FOIA litigation involving text messages; and Ford Motor Co. v. United States, the $500 million claim for overpayment interest on corporate income tax.
 
Each of these cases provided unique challenges, Zuckerman says.
 
“But common among them, was the intelligence, sophistication and toughness of the adversaries, coupled with the fact that their respective lawyers created challenges by their creative use of all of the legitimate legal avenues available to defend these investigations and subsequent prosecutions. In addition, with regard to participating in grand jury investigations—especially Hoffa, Aladdin and Giacalone—I met, as you would expect, an interesting cast of characters.” 
 
Zuckerman, consistently ranked amongst The Best Lawyers in America, Chambers USA America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Michigan Super Lawyers, DBusiness Top Lawyers and other kudos, joined Honigman in 1987. 
 
“I enjoy the character, dedication, sophistication, professionalism and overall intelligence of the lawyers I work with,” he says. “There are experts in nearly every area of law and just ‘hanging around’ makes one smarter and a better lawyer by osmosis. Also, the complexity and significance of the work the firm and its lawyers attract provide a not-to-be-beat place to practice.”
 
Zuckerman has an interest in military history and related topics, and keeps in touch with former military colleagues; he also enjoys games of strategy such as chess, poker and bridge.
 
“I also have a passing interest in political matters and have been active in various bar associations and charitable organizations,” he says. “I particularly enjoyed serving six years on the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission.”
 
A native of Yonkers, N.Y., he enjoys the downtown atmosphere of Motor City. He and his wife have two married daughters and two grandchildren.
 
“Sadly, one family lives in Tampa, Florida, while the other lives in New York City, so we don’t see them as much as we’d like to,” he says. 

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