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Tax case raises pressure on Hunter Biden, with jail time a real possibility

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Hunter Biden’s get-out-of-jail free card may have just expired.

The tax charges brought late Thursday against the president’s son significantly up the ante in the yearslong investigation into his finances and pose a very real possibility that he may end up serving prison time.

According to data from the Internal Revenue Service, nearly 90% of all tax cases they refer to the Department of Justice for prosecution end with a conviction or guilty plea. And around two-thirds of those cases resulted in prison time, with an average sentence of 14 months.

In the case brought by Special Prosecutor David Weiss, the 53-year-old Biden is accused of tax evasion and tax fraud for failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes he owed between 2016 and 2020. The charges, brought in California federal court, allege that Biden took steps to hide income from the IRS and failed to pay what he owed, even though he had the money, instead allegedly spending it on drugs and women and to pay for his lavish lifestyle. 

He faces a maximum of 17 years in prison if convicted of all charges, federal prosecutors said.

Earlier this year, Biden had reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax evasion charges and to enter into a diversion agreement on a separate charge of lying on a federal gun license application. Biden had settled his tax bill in 2021 and the deal would likely have resulted in no jail time.

But the deal fell apart after Republicans on Capitol Hill challenged the agreement and the judge in the case raised concerns about the arrangement. In September, Weiss filed criminal gun charges against Biden in Delaware.

In a statement, Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said the new charges were the result of prosecutors “bowing to Republican pressure to file unprecedented and unconstitutional gun charges to renege on a non-prosecution resolution.”

“Now, after five years of investigating with no new evidence – and two years after Hunter paid his taxes in full – the U.S. attorney has piled on nine new charges when he had agreed just months ago to resolve this matter with a pair of misdemeanors.”

“Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought,” the statement read.

Kevin J. O’Brien, a defense attorney specializing in white collar criminal cases and a former federal prosecutor, says the tax charges are serious given the amount of money involved and could very well end with jail time. But he also questioned how prosecutors switched gears on the case so quickly.

“They spent four years looking at this guy and they initially came to the conclusion after looking at all the evidence to give him just two misdemeanor charges and then five months later come back with this,” he said. “There surely will be arguments for filing motions to dismiss.”  

In the most recent fiscal year, the IRS pursued criminal charges against 1,838 defendants accused of evading over $37 billion in taxes they owed. Of those, 1,508 cases ended in convictions.

The average age of those charged with tax fraud is 52 and around 80% of them had no prior criminal record, the IRS data shows. . 

The prior year, the IRS opened 2,550 criminal tax evasion and tax fraud cases resulting in $31 billion of taxes not being paid. Around 91% of those cases ended in convictions. 

If convicted, Biden would not be the first high-profile defendant to possibly go to jail for tax offenses. 

Actor Wesley Snipes, who claimed he had a moral objection to paying taxes, served three years in prison for failing to pay $7 million he owed. Singer Lauryn Hill served three months in prison for failing to file returns for $1.8 million she had earned. And “Jersey Shore” star, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, served eight months for falsifying his tax returns to hide nearly $9 million he had earned.

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