Chicago Lawyer Pleads Guilty in Tax-Shelter Fraud That Brought Down Firm

A Chicago attorney pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion charges for his role in a billion- dollar phony tax-shelter scheme that brought down his law firm in 2007.

Erwin Mayer, 47, a former attorney at the defunct law firm Jenkens & Gilchrist, faces as long as 10 years in prison at his sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 10 before U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley in Manhattan.

“I am filled with shame and remorse for what I did,” Mayer said today in court.

Mayer was one of seven people indicted in June 2009 on charges of conspiracy and tax evasion for their roles in marketing the phony shelters from 1994 to 2005. Prosecutors said the defendants used the shelters to generate more than $7.32 billion in fraudulent tax losses for at least 931 wealthy individuals.

Jenkins & Gilchrist in 2005 agreed to pay $81.6 million to clients who sued over its tax-shelter advice. In March 2007, the firm avoided prosecution by admitting it developed and marketed tax shelters that generated more than $1 billion in phony losses, and then shut down.

Two other Jenkens & Gilchrist attorneys, Paul M. Daugerdas and Donna Guerin, also have been indicted. Daugerdas previously served as a tax partner at Arthur Andersen LLP and headed the tax department at the Chicago law firm Altheimer & Gray, where Guerin and Mayer both worked as certified public accountants.

The case is U.S. v. Daugerdas, 1:09-cr-00581, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York federal court at cdolmetsch@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Pickering at jpickering@bloomberg.net.

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