In Boston Federal Court today US Judge Nancy Gertner announced a stunning verdict of $101 million in the wrongful imprisonment case brought in the notorious saga of the corrupt FBI arrangement with organized crime figures in the Boston area that has resulted in a string of admissions about the government knowing it's informants were killing other mob associates, but doing nothing about it.
In this particular case the four wrongly convicted men, the late Henry Tameleo and Louis Greco, and the still living Peter Limone and Joseph Salvati, had spent decades in prison doing time for the murder of Edward Deegan back in 1965 in Boston. They had been named by a former mob hit man, Joseph "The Animal" Barboza who was in fact lying in order to protect a fellow FBI informant, Vincent "Jimmy" Flemmi from being prosecuted for the murders. The FBI in Boston knew the four men were innocent, but kept silent in order to protect their corrupt ring of informants, thus allowing four innocent men to spend most of their lives in prison for a crime they never committed.
However, what intrigues me is that once again, in less then a month since the Murphy vs IRS decision on July 3, 2007 we have a major $100 million or greater verdict on a taxable damages case, with the likelihood that these gentlemen and their estates are utterly unaware of the fact that they are about to face the further indignity of having to pay an enormous sum in taxes unless they and their attorneys elect to structure this award over several years.
The allocations according to news reports broke out to $26 million to Limone, $29 million to Salvati, $13 million to the Tamelo estate and $28 million to the Greco estate. Further the wives of Limone and Salvati and the estate of Tamelos deceased wife each were awarded slightly more then $1 million and the men's 10 children were each awarded $250,000.
So, lets once again do the gruesome match on taxable damages. Remember, unlike our prior illustration on the LA Archdiocese case where there was still some doubt as to maybe some of the damages might be tax free, in this case it is an absolute certainty that this is all going to be fully taxable.
Lets take Mr. Salvati as our example. His award of $29 million, coupled with $1 million to his wife would create a net taxable award of $30 million. Under the typical scenario his attorney is going to take at least a full third to 40% of the award as his fee, but as you will recall, under the Banks and Banatis supreme court rulings this fee is NOT tax deductible to Mr. Salvati or any of the others in this suit. Therefore, he must report the entire $30 million, even though he may only net $18 to $20 million after fees.
Still not bad you say? Well, lets do the very rough tax math here.
$30 million in taxable income. His federal tax rate is going to be 35% on the excess over $349,700. His state tax rate as a citizen of the Commonwealth of MA is going to be 5.3%. This is a combined top marginal tax rate of 40.3% on the vast majority of this income he is scheduled to receive. I think we can very safely assume that this individual is going to be facing at least a $12 million combined federal and state tax bill for his award for wrongful imprisonment.
So, if we deduct the attorney's fee of $12 million and his taxes of $12 million, our poor plaintiff and tax payer in this situation is left with $6 million net of his $30 million award. Talk about getting shafted by the US Government twice! First they take decades of his life due to FBI corruption and lying, and now the IRS and State Tax authorities receive twice the amount in taxes that this man will receive in his pocket!
Look at the tally here.
Attorney fee: $12 million
Taxes: $12 million
Plaintiff: $6 million
As I have written before, this is the single most grotesque distortion of the US Tax Code I can think of, and while most people are in utter disbelief that this is the truth, it absolutely is the case here. These plaintiffs are looking at tax bills well in excess of $10 million each.
So what can be done, if anything to minimize the financial trauma these families and their estates are about to experience at the hands of the federal and state tax men? As outlined in my previous blog post, they MUST engage a competent structured annuity expert with experience in handling taxable damage cases. They further must immediately get to work on obtaining the assistance of their attorneys in structuring the legal fees so the tax hits are spread out over several years, and then they need to look at structuring their own income out over several years as well. Go back and read my prior posts on the Archdiocese for the template on how to get this done.
Hopefully these men and their families get the planning assistance they desperately need, or come April 2008 they will be writing checks far in excess of what they could ever imagine and how is that justice for all they endured for so long?