A prominent Chicago tax attorney has been sentenced to two years in jail for conspiring to evade taxes. He thus becomes the first target of a controversial federal investigation called Project Haven to be sentenced to prison.
Roger S. Baskes, 42, had been convicted of conspiring to evade taxes on $700,000 earned on the sale of a Reno, Nev., apartment complex. According to government probers, the money was laundered through accounts at Castle Bank and Trust, a Bahamian bank.
The jail sentence for the white-collar crime is a major victory for Project Haven attorneys in the Justice Department. For almost a decade they have been investigating the use of offshore tax havens, like the Bahamas, by wealthy Americans allegedly seeking to evade U.S. taxes.
Baskes is a partner in the firm of Levenfeld, Kanter, Baskes & Lippitz.
One of his partners, Burton W. Kanter, 47, has also been a target of government investigators, but was acquitted after being charged in the same apartment building sale conspiracy.
U.S. District Court Judge Bernard M. Decker rejected defense claims that information used by the government against Baskes was obtained illegally.
Project Haven has suffered severe legal setbacks in other federal courts which have ruled that much of the evidence gathered in Haven was tainted, because it was acquired in illegal break-ins.
But Decker ruled that the evidence against Baskes was acquired lawfully.
Baskes has been indicted in another Haven case involving some of his clients who allegedly used Castle Bank to launder profits from phony commodity deals.
Government attorneys had asked for the maximum penalty of five years in jail and $10,000 fine for Baskes.