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Justice Department Moving to Smash Tax Scams

Disbarred lawyer Robert Clarkson, one of many tax protesters, likes to dress up as "The Great One," a "genuine superhero that comes to the rescue of the average person."

October was a banner month for the Department of Justice's efforts to destroy illegal tax-avoidance scams, a four-year endeavor that has so far resulted in a large number of arrests and injunctions against more than 100 anti-tax crusaders.

The scams have been promoted around the country by hundreds of people, many associated with radical antigovernment groups, who argue that the federal income tax is not lawful. These bogus theories spread particularly quickly in the 1990s, when they were promoted by many in the militia movement.

Probably the most significant October development was the conviction of Irwin Schiff, a veteran anti-tax crusader blamed for the loss of $56 million in federal taxes, on charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and tax fraud. Schiff, 77, peddled the idea that Americans don't need to pay income taxes for decades through his books and seminars. He now faces up to 43 years in prison and $3.25 million in fines. He's apparently not a quick learner -- Schiff was convicted in 1980 and 1985 of a series of criminal tax violations and served four years in federal prison as a result.

Among the other important tax-protest developments in October:

  • Certified public accountant Gary Kuzel, of Downers Grove, Ill., was sentenced to two years in prison. He was the last of 10 defendants to be sentenced who were affiliated with Anderson's Ark & Associates, a major promoter of tax avoidance scams. Kuzel admitted to helping clients of Anderson's Ark file a whole series of false tax and legal documents.

  • John David Van Hove, well known in the tax protest movement as "Johnny Liberty," pleaded guilty to tax and wire fraud charges in connection with some $700,000 he took in from clients of his Maui, Hawaii, financial planning and investment service. Van Hove taught his clients how to avoid paying taxes and helped them conceal their income in a variety of ways. He was also affiliated with Global Prosperity Trust, a tax-scam outfit whose main founders were arrested in 2002. Van Hove faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

  • Federal prosecutors filed a suit in South Carolina against Robert Clarkson, a disbarred attorney who has twice been convicted of federal tax-related crimes. The suit aims to prevent Clarkson from selling fraudulent tax materials like his "Un-Taxing Packet" and to obtain the names of his customers. Long active in antigovernment groups, Clarkson sometimes dresses as "The Great One," a sort of masked super-hero symbolizing resistance to the tax authorities.

  • Justice officials also asked for a federal injunction ordering Derrick Sanders of Atlanta to turn over a list of his customers. Sanders claims to be the "Grand Master Consul" of the Yamassee Native Americans of Eaton, Ga., a group previously known as the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors. (The name changed after the Nuwaubian leader was convicted of molesting scores of children.) Sanders has argued the Yamassees are exempt from federal taxes, though they are not a recognized Indian tribe. In fact, virtually all of them are black.