A Utah attorney who hasn’t filed a tax return since the 1980s was fined $250,000 and sentenced to three years in prison for impeding the Internal Revenue Service.

Thomas Wood, a practicing attorney from Cottonwood Heights, was sentenced Friday. He was convicted by a jury on Aug. 4, 2008, after a week-long trial, and was ordered by the judge to pay $56,852 in restitution to the Treasury.

According to the indictment and evidence presented at trial, from 1998 through 2002, Wood helped two tax criminals, Glenn Ambort and John Benson, hide millions of dollars in income. In those years, Ambort and Benson were awaiting trial in a federal prosecution for conspiracy to commit tax fraud. While assisting in their defense, Wood used several bank accounts that he held in trust to hide millions in income that Ambort and Benson were taking from the MyCor Investment Club, a Canadian Ponzi scheme. For his involvement, Wood pled guilty four years ago in state court to a misdemeanor securities violation.

The federal prosecution of Wood addressed the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the government accused him of spending for himself from MyCor investors’ funds, as well as the millions he spent on behalf of Ambort and Benson to buy, among other things, homes in upper Deer Valley, Draper, and Roosevelt, Utah, as well as in Malibu and San Luis Obispo, Calif.

To facilitate the use of this income without drawing the attention of tax authorities, Wood used non-interest-bearing domestic trust accounts to receive and disburse funds, including one in the name of The Family Foundation, an entity he formed to help support the Goodman family, a popular singing group at the time. Wood also opened up and managed the use of offshore debit card accounts in the Bahamas for himself and others.

Evidence showed that Wood had not filed a tax return since the 1980s. In the two years for which he was prosecuted, 2000 and 2001, his gross income was more than $180,000 and $56,000, respectively. The income came primarily from investor funds under his control in his nominee trust accounts that he used to pay for personal expenses.

When Wood was convicted last August, U.S. Attorney Brett L. Tolman remarked, “Mr. Wood’s case is troubling in that it arose from the legal profession. We hope that his prosecution will help promote the integrity of the income tax laws by discouraging others from ignoring or circumventing their obligations.”

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