Joseph and Sally Conforte were convicted of tax evasion and fraud in 1977; fraud added for regularly destroying their financial records.
Joe, this being his second offense, was sentenced by Judge Bruce Thompson to twenty years in prison and fined forty-thousand dollars.
Sally was sentenced to four years probation and fined forty-thousand dollars.
The Confortes appealed, seeking to vacate their sentences and a new trial. Joe claimed Judge Thompson was biased.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reduced Joe’s sentence to five years and allowed a hearing in the lower court for a new trial.
The lower court denied the Confortes a new trial.
The IRS hit Joe and Sally with $5.6 million in tax penalties and arrears. The Conforte then sued the Commissioner of Internal Revenue in the U.S. Tax Court and sought tax re-determination in U.S. District Court.
Judge Foley, presiding over the Conforte’s tax re-determination hearing in Las Vegas, June 2, 1978, let his feelings known:
Judge Foley upheld the tax penalties and arrears then recused himself.
The United States Tax Court lowered the IRS assessments but upheld the crime and overall penalties.
By the end of 1980, Joe Conforte’s legal options had run dry and he faced five years in prison, along with millions in taxes owed the IRS. Rather than face the music, he fled to Mexico and then onto Brazil.
In 1981, Conforte appealed the Tax Court’s decision and lost big when the appeals court determined that a fugitive of justice has no right to appeal. Joe Conforte then filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision, setting legal precedence that is often cited in courtrooms across the country.
“A pimp sitting on the banks of the Truckee thumbs his nose at the United States Government as he has thumbed his nose at the good people of this state for thirty years!” ~Judge Roger D. Foley
Joseph Conforte v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 459 U.S. 1309 (1983), A-584 Rehnquist