Federal prosecutors will split the 18 defendants facing charges over the sale of questionable-legal tax shelters into two separate groups.   Sixteen former KPMG executives are among the defendants in what’s being billed as the largest criminal tax case ever. The other two indictees include a lawyer and an outside investment adviser to the Big Four firm.   Under a proposal submitted in Manhattan Federal District Court, prosecutors have asked to hold two separate trials -- one for a group of former senior partners and executives and another for a group of more junior employees. The proposal doesn’t provide a timeline for when the separate trials might start, or in what order.   Lawyers for certain defendants have previously argued that their clients should be tried separately.   According to the New York Times, the senior defendants would include former vice chairman Jeffrey Stein, who was the No. 2 executive at the firm; former vice chairman in charge of tax services John Lanning; former chief financial officer Richard Rosenthal; former associate in-house lawyer Steven Gremminger; former partner Robert Pfaff, who worked with co-defendant John Larson to set up Presidio Advisory Services; former senior tax partner David Greenberg; and a former lawyer at Sidley Austin Brown & Woo, Raymond J. Ruble.   The junior defendants would include the head of KPMG’s personal financial planning division, Jeffrey Eischeid; former KPMG employee Larson, who set up an investment boutique that sold shelters; former Deutsche Bank employee David Amir Makov, who later worked at Presidio; and former partner Gregg Ritchie, among others.

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