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Attorney who often represents Mohawks guilty of federal tax charge


AKWESASNE — A New York City attorney who has represented several Mohawks on various issues for more than two decades faces 18 months in federal prison after admitting Monday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, that he did not file state or federal tax returns for six years.

Stanley L. Cohen, 61, pleaded guilty to corruptly obstructing and impeding the Internal Revenue Service, according to a statement by Richard S. Hartunian, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York. As part of the plea agreement, Mr. Cohen must also plead guilty within 10 days in the Southern District of New York to pending charges of failure to file income tax returns. He will also be required to pay all income taxes due for the years 2005-10. Sentencing was set for Aug. 21.

The plea cancels a trial that was to begin Monday. According to Mr. Hartunian’s statement, prosecutors were prepared to introduce evidence showing that in the tax year 2004, the last year Mr. Cohen filed a tax return, he claimed gross receipts of $289,000 when in fact investigators learned that he had deposits of more than $426,000 for the year. Investigators also learned that for the years 2004 through 2010, Mr. Cohen had deposits totaling $3.67 million in his accounts.

Search warrants were executed at his law office in New York City and at his law office and home in Jeffersonville, Sullivan County, and investigators found that Mr. Cohen essentially kept no financial records regarding income or payments of fees from clients. From 2005 to 2010, he also failed to file tax documents for payments made to a law office assistant.

Among other findings is that Mr. Cohen caused wire transfers of cash to his accounts to be made by clients, many of whom were residents of the Akwesasne Mohawk Reservation. These wire transfers were all made by MoneyGram from a convenience store near the reservation. The wire transfers totaled more than $643,000 between October 2004 and December 2008.

Mr. Cohen has represented several criminal defendants in the north country, including a Mohawk businessman who pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to file currency reports stemming from what prosecutors claimed was a $700 million cigarette and alcohol smuggling operation. In St. Lawrence County, he represented one of six defendants convicted of conspiring to rob Daniel P. Simonds in 2008 at his town of Stockholm residence. During an ensuing struggle, Mr. Simonds was shot and killed in what prosecutors said was a drug-related robbery. Mr. Cohen also has represented defendants in Jefferson County Court.

The attorney represented parents of three St. Regis Mohawk School students in a 2005 federal lawsuit against the Salmon River Central School District over whether a traditional Mohawk thanksgiving address constituted a prayer and whether it should be recited at the school. The school district banned the recital of the address at the school, citing the constitutional separation of church and state, while the parents argued the address was a “non-religious expression of Mohawk culture.” The suit was dismissed in 2007, with a judge agreeing with the district.

Mr. Cohen had asked to have his federal trial postponed, claiming that he was “exhausted” and unable to properly prepare his defense following his representation in March in federal court in New York City of Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law. Abu Ghaith, chief spokesman for al-Qaida after 9/11, was convicted March 27 of charges that included conspiracy to kill Americans and providing support to al-Qaida. He is the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure brought to trial on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Judge Norman A. Mordue twice denied Mr. Cohen’s requests to have his own trial delayed.

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