1977 Tax Evasion


tax evasion and fraud

April 5, 2021 – by Oscar Dey Williams


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 R. 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 Confortes 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 Confortes’ tax re-determination hearing in Las Vegas, June 2, 1978, let his feelings known:

“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

Judge Foley upheld the tax penalties and arrears then recused himself.

The U.S. Tax Court lowered the IRS assessments but upheld the crime and overall penalties.

Joe made a last ditch effort to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing Judge Bruce Thompson should have disqualified himself, but it denied hearing his case.

Before Christmas 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 challenged 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 another writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming his civil rights had been denied, and it agreed to rule.

In 1983, in an opinion penned by Justice William Rehnquist, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision, setting legal precedence that is often cited in courtrooms across the country.

The Confortes entering Reno’s federal courthouse
The Confortes leaving the federal courthouse with attorney Stan Brown Sr.
Judge Bruce R. Thompson



Judge Roger D. Foley







United States Supreme Court
  • AP (Reno), “Conforte Dealt 20-Year Prison Sentence,” Las Vegas Sun, October 29, 1977, page 4
  • Earl Beiderman, “Conforte Seeking New Tax Evasion Trial,” Nevada State Journal, March 14, 1978, page 1
  • __, “Conforte faces lien,” Reno Evening Gazette, February 18, 1978, page 2
  • AP (Las Vegas), “Conforte decision reversed,” Reno Evening Gazette, June 5, 1978, page 1
  • Michael Doan (AP), “Conforte takes his tax appeal to Washington,” Reno Evening Gazette, July 27, 1978, page 15
  • Bernard Hurwitz (AP), “Court upholds Conforte tax conviction,” Reno Evening Gazette, April 30, 1980, page 1
  • Jack McFarren and Warren Wheat, “Federal tax court slaps Conforte,” Reno Evening Gazette, September 10, 1980, page 1
  • Jack McFarren and AP, “Supreme Court rejects Conforte tax case,” Reno Evening Gazette, December 1, 1980, page 1
  • Lenita Powers and Rodney Foo, “Still no sign of Conforte,” Reno Evening Gazette, December 24, 1980, page 1
  • AP (San Francisco), “Federal court tosses out Conforte tax appeal,” Reno Evening Gazette, November 6, 1982
  • Joseph Conforte vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 459 U.S 1309 (1983), A-584 Rehnquist’s opinion, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/459/1309/

Topics:    Tax Evasion  |  Fugitive Rights  |  U.S. Supreme Court  |  U.S. Tax Court  |  Oscar Dey Williams