An Internal Revenue Service agent has pleaded guilty in a federal court in St. Paul, Minn., to soliciting and receiving a $9,700 bribe.

Roger Anthony Coombs, age 40, of Circle Pines, Minn., pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of soliciting and agreeing to receive a bribe. After accepting the plea, U.S. District Court Judge Paul A. Magnuson said of the charge, “I take this very seriously. This happens in other places but not in America.”

In his plea agreement, Coombs, who was indicted on June 21, 2010, admitted that on May 8, 2010, he solicited a $9,700 bribe from the owners of a small Minnesota business (see IRS Agent Indicted for Taking a Bribe and IRS Agent Charged with Seeking Bribe). In exchange for the money, Coombs agreed to report a lower federal tax obligation than was actually owed by the business. Coombs also admitted receiving payments toward the bribe on May 19 and June 2, 2010.

A law enforcement affidavit filed in the case states that Coombs, who began working for the IRS in June 2009, routinely audited individuals and entities to determine if accurate reports of tax liabilities had been submitted by them to the federal government. On May 6, 2010, Coombs met with the two owners of a small Minnesota company for that purpose.

The meeting was held at the office of the company’s accountant, but while the accountant was out of the room, Coombs suggested that he and the owners meet elsewhere, unaccompanied by the accountant. As a result, another meeting was scheduled for May 8.

Because of his concerns about Coombs, one of the business owners secretly recorded the May 8 meeting, during which Coombs reported that the business owed the IRS approximately $60,000. He went on to say, however, that he could make the situation more “manageable.” He explained he could alter aspects of the audit so the IRS would accept $11,000, if the business owners paid him $9,700 personally in return. A subsequent meeting was then scheduled for May 19, at which Coombs was to receive partial payment toward the bribe.

Prior to that meeting, the business owners reported Coombs’s actions to authorities. Therefore, on May 19, investigators were present to see Coombs accept $3,000 in payment toward the bribe. After receiving the money, Coombs informed the business owner he had taken care of things at the IRS. The two men then arranged yet another meeting, scheduled for June 2, for payment of the balance of the bribe. On June 2, 2010, after Coombs received the final payment of $6,700, he was arrested without incident.

Following the plea hearing, U.S. Attorney Todd Jones said, “We are grateful to the courageous taxpayer who came forward to notify the United States Attorney’s Office of a corrupt public servant. We are also grateful for the terrific cooperation between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Treasury Inspector General - Tax Administration, whose efforts and joint investigation resulted in speedy justice in this case. Public corruption, in any form or shape, remains one of the Justice Department’s top priorities and will be pursued aggressively.” The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tracy L. Perzel and Joe Dixon.

For his crime, Coombs faces a potential maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Judge Magnuson will determine his sentence at a future hearing, yet to be scheduled.

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