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Ex-Ernst & Young Executive Rebuffed in Tax Shelter Case

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal by Robert Coplan, a former Ernst & Young LLP executive convicted of selling illegal tax shelters that cost the federal government as much as $2 billion.

The justices today left intact Coplan’s seven-count conviction and three-year prison sentence. His appeal, which challenged one of the seven counts, sought to narrow the scope of the federal law that criminalizes conspiracies to defraud the U.S. government.

Coplan, a tax lawyer, is one of four Ernst & Young executives convicted in 2010 for developing and marketing tax shelters sold from 1999 to 2001. Two of the men, Richard Shapiro and Martin Nissenbaum, have since won reversals.

Prosecutors said Coplan also took steps to conceal the shelters from the Internal Revenue Service, lied to the IRS in audits and encouraged clients to do likewise.

In his appeal, Coplan pointed to a 2010 Supreme Court decision that limited the reach of a separate federal fraud law in the case of former Enron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Skilling.

A federal appeals court upheld Coplan’s conviction last year, along with that of Brian Vaughn, a former Ernst & Young accountant.

The case is Coplan v. United States, 12-1299.

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