Ronald Lee Cohen set up various companies in the Virgin Islands to put money under the umbrella of an organization to help him avoid paying capital gains taxes, which he says he was promised by his accountant in Canada.
Cohen says he was offered $150,000 to drop his lawsuit against his former accountant after the accountant failed to file the 2012 tax return he claimed he filed with the Canadian Revenue Agency. Cohen turned down the deal, saying that the compensation was less than he was owed from the government in taxes.
According to a Miami Dade State Attorney investigation obtained by the New York Post, investigators said Cohen spoke about “ushers” sent to private island homes in the Virgin Islands, where he changed the locks and made sure only someone from his inner circle was there to collect the taxes. Cohen was using the account from Hamilton Ventures Limited to help with his attempts to evade taxes, investigators allege. Hamilton Ventures is one of the 16 companies which were shut down by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in April of this year as part of an investigation into money laundering.
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The Department of Justice revealed that Hamilton Ventures was established in 2003 in the Bahamas. From 2006 to 2008, it was operated as a corporation based in Cyprus, where there is a similar law on foreign trusts. It was used to help dodge taxes in the U.S. and to further Cohen’s career as a film producer.
Cohen’s own names appeared as limited partners in Hamilton Ventures, including ones for at least a decade. But when investigators visited Hamilton Ventures’ employees in the Canadian tax havens, they came up empty-handed. The closest thing to a clue of their operations were “son of Ron” emblems. A manager of Hamilton Ventures Limited came to Florida in 2016 for a meeting with investigators in which she reportedly said she knew nothing about the accounts, but her phone number was on the documents. A manager for Hamilton Ventures Private Limited, which handled the transactions, said he had never seen the paperwork until that meeting with the DOJ. In the meantime, Cohen continued to make deals with Hamilton Ventures and keep the accounts open for the investments, according to the DOJ report.
According to a civil complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court, Cohen “attempted to hide or conceal the Bermuda and Cyprus corporations,” while discussing “transnational tax avoidance strategies” with investigators.
The complaint alleges that Cohen “hid the fact that he was controlled by a Canadian corporation as part of a business plan to secure anti-tax avoidance rulings for Hamilton Ventures.”
Cohen was convicted of a tax evasion charge in December 2010 in Ontario, Canada, for which he was released in July 2016 after serving less than three years in prison. But investigators came to suspect that Cohen’s offshore accounts had not been used to avoid taxes. He has not been charged with any crimes related to fraud.
Cohen did not respond to a request for comment.