Michael Stickler Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud

 In Presentence Investigation, Tax fraud

Tax FraudMichael Stickler owned a business in Reno. His business offered consulting services to people who pursued government grants. The business proved lucrative, but either bad management or bad decisions led to Michael Stickler’s having to plead guilty to tax fraud. What should he do next?

According to a press release from the US Attorney in Nevada, Michael Stickler owned and operated Faith Based Solutions. As the law requires for all employers, Michael withheld employment and FICA taxes from his employee’s wages. Unfortunately, over the course of several years, Michael chose to use the money from those withholding taxes for other purposes. He admitted to keeping more than $100,000 that he was supposed to turn over to the IRS.

I’ve met many business owners who mistakenly believed that they could use money they withheld from employee wages as a kind of short-term loan from the government. They intended to pay the money at some point, but their cash-starved businesses never caught up. As a consequence of their bad business decisions, investigators from the IRS eventually showed up. Criminal prosecutions sometimes followed, as they did for Mr. Stickler.

The government didn’t only charge Michael Stickler with tax fraud. He also was convicted for “theft of public money.” U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du has set a sentencing date on February 9 of 2015 for the defendant. With that date hanging over his head like a swinging sword of Damocles, I doubt Mr. Stickler is enjoying a festive Christmas.

What should a defendant who pleaded guilty to tax fraud do before sentencing?

If Mr. Stickler were working with PrisonProfessor.com, we would urge him to learn more about the process ahead. The more he learns and understands, the better he can prepare himself for a successful outcome from these proceedings. Since his convictions resolve the matter of guilt or innocence, a U.S. Probation Officer will soon contact him to conduct a Presentence Investigation. As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, it’s crucial that Michael prepare for the Presentence Investigation. The Probation Officer will ask him some very pointed questions. The responses that Michael gives to his Probation Officer’s questions will influence his sentence length, his release date, and his eligibility for programs inside the Bureau of Prisons.

Further, Michael should give some thought to a sentence-mitigation strategy. In other words, he needs to create a narrative that will show him as a human being. To the extent that he succeeds, the sentencing judge will see him for more than the criminal charges.

Finally, Michael should craft some elaborate plans that will ensure he emerges from the prison experience successfully. Anyone can serve time. But proceeding through prison in ways that will allow an individual to live a life of meaning and relevance requires careful planning. Prisons are filled with obstacles that can derail an individual’s peace. At PrisonProfessor.com, we teach individuals proven strategies, introduce them to options. We show defendants how to emerge from the prison experience stronger than ever.

In summary, Mr. Stickler should begin preparing for the next chapter of his life. We can help him write that chapter. Instead of simply waiting for the sentencing hearing, he should take some deliberate steps that will open new opportunities for his future.

That is the best piece of advice I can give to Michael Stickler on this Christmas Day before he surrenders to federal prison.

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Tax fraud doesn't have to be the end to a fulfilling life.