Big Island resident Eric A. Lighter, 61, has been convicted in California of federal crimes including conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit blackmail and witness tampering.

Lighter faces maximum penalties exceeding 20 years in prison and will be sentenced in March in San Jose, Calif.

He is well known here for filing so many voluminous legal and land claims that he was dubbed a “vexatious litigant” by the courts.

The California case was prosecuted by attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department Tax Division.

In a news release, the Justice Department said Lighter conspired with tax preparer Samuel Fung to market “abusive trust packages” through an organization called National Trust Services (NTS).

Fung pleaded guilty last year and cooperated in the case against Ligher.

The conspiracy began in the 1990’s and after the IRS opened an investigation of Fung, Lighter “worked with Fung to fabricate false and fraudulent tax returns, financial transactions, and other documents,” the government said.

Lighter directed clients of NTS  “to transfer their assets, including valuable real estate and nearly half a million dollars in cash, to corporations he owned or controlled,” according to prosecutors.

“Lighter told his clients that these transactions would protect their assets from the IRS and assured his clients that he would return the assets at a later date” but then refused to undo the transactions, according to court records.

In some cases, Lighter and Fung then informed “the IRS about their clients’ alleged criminal conduct and participation in NTS,” the government said.

“At Lighter’s direction, Fung told one of their clients that he would be subject to criminal prosecution if that client did not drop his civil lawsuit that was seeking to recover his property from Lighter,” the news release said.

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