United States v. Kelley

The Facts

Defendant convicted at trial of conspiring to defraud the US government and of helping to prepare false tax forms.  Defendant was organizer of a group which believed the federal income tax was unconstitutional and solicited dues from members to prepare forms in which they might avoid all income tax.  He provided the forms for members and gave them detailed instructions regarding how they can be filled out.  He prepared a legal brief arguing that income was not taxable and instructed his customers to attach the brief to their federal tax submissions.  Evidence suggests, however, that defendant himself was not entirely convinced of the legality of his advice.  He had spoken with multiple attorneys prior to giving advice to clients and none agreed with his proposition.  On appeal defendant argues that he cannot be convicted of aiding and abetting because he did not participate in the preparation of tax forms.  He argues he merely gave advice, which members were free to accept or reject.

Procedural History

Defendant convicted at trial and appeals.

The Issue

Whether telling listeners who to do and how to prepare forms constitutes aiding and abetting.

The Holding/Rule

Yes.  Defendant told listeners with the intent that his advice was to be accepted.  The payment he received created an implication legally sufficient to create an expectation that his advice was to be followed by listeners and members.  While he did not actually draft their forms, his “participation is as real as if he had.”  The defendant’s actions constitute a membership organization, with multiple members, which constitutes a substantial disruption in the process of tax collection.


Judgment affirmed.

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