Argued: May 2, 2019
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of Ohio at Columbus. No. 2:15-cr-00168-1-Edmund A.
Sargus Jr., District Judge.
A. Yeazel, KEITH A. YEAZEL LAW OFFICE, Columbus, Ohio, for
Litton, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Columbus, Ohio,
A. Yeazel, KEITH A. YEAZEL LAW OFFICE, Columbus, Ohio, for
A. Brown, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, COLUMBUS,
Ohio, for Appellee.
Before: MOORE, SUTTON, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges
NELSON MOORE, Circuit Judge
John Rankin knowingly violated several tax laws in operating
his companies, including by failing to turn over to the IRS
employees' withholding taxes and inaccurately reporting
his own earnings. The IRS investigated
and his businesses, first civilly and then criminally. Rankin
interfered with and delayed the investigations. He was
charged with and convicted of seventeen tax-related counts,
sentenced to sixty months in prison, and required to pay a
sizable restitution. We AFFIRM his
conviction and sentence but modify his judgment to reflect
that he need not pay restitution until his term of supervised
owned Connectivity Systems, Inc. ("CSI"), a
software development and management business, a restaurant
called Tuscan Table, and an umbrella organization called
Rankin Enterprises, LLC. R. 179 (Trial Tr. at 205-06) (Page
ID #4023-24). For years, Rankin failed to pay employee
payroll withholdings to the IRS, and he disbursed money from
CSI to himself and his other companies as "tangible
wages" and "research and development"
compensation without reporting it as wages. Id. at
206-21 (Page ID #4024-39); R. 181 (Trial Tr. at 213-220)
(Page ID #4522-29).
tax practices were first scrutinized in 2004 by Rea &
Associates, a private auditing firm hired by banks that had
been lending to Rankin. R. 179 (Trial Tr. at 204-05) (Page ID
#4022-23). The audits uncovered that Rankin had been
disbursing CSI funds to himself and Rankin Enterprises,
classifying them as "royalties" or "research
and development," and failing to report them as wages to
the IRS. Id. at 218 (Page ID #4036); R. 178 (Trial
Tr. at 42-43, 112-29, 140-42) (Page ID #3626-27, 3696-3713,
3724-26). Rankin admitted to the Rea auditors that the
payments were employee compensation, not royalties. R. 178
(Trial Tr. at 142) (Page ID #3726).
initiated a civil investigation into Rankin's
businesses' unpaid tax liabilities and unfiled tax
returns in 2008 and contacted Rankin to inquire about them.
R. 181 (Trial Tr. at 95- 96, 100-03) (Page ID #4404-05,
4409-12). He continued to fail to file tax returns for his
businesses and proved uncooperative in the IRS investigation.
When an IRS investigator informed Rankin that she planned to
file a notice of tax lien, he responded that he would make a
payment every day so that it would be difficult for the IRS
to know the balance owed and file the lien. Id. at
115-16, 118, 122 (Page ID #4424-25, 4427, 4431). Rankin also
claimed that a fire had destroyed some financial records,
leading to the delay in his tax payments. Id. at 156
(Page ID #4465). Evidence presented at trial suggested that
the fire had not in fact encumbered his ability to access the
financial records or satisfy his tax obligations.
Id. at 156, 158-59 (Page ID #4465, 4467-68); R. 179
(Trial Tr. at 203-04) (Page ID #4021-22). For example, the
jury saw a letter that Rankin had written to CSI employees
bragging about his efforts to beat the IRS at its own game,
R. 190 (Exhibit at 3-6) (Page ID #5769-72), and a special
agent who worked on the case testified that the records were
readily available elsewhere. R. 182 (Trial Tr. at 208-09)
(Page ID #4778-79).
eventually initiated a criminal investigation into
Rankin's tax activities. Rankin was informed in person by
an IRS officer that he was under investigation in April 2011.
R. 181 (Trial Tr. at 231-33) (Page ID #4540-42). In May 2011,
Rankin filed five amended individual income tax returns for
the years 2005 through 2009. These tax returns falsely
declared negative adjusted gross income and no federal tax
due. Rankin achieved this outcome by declaring some
previously undisclosed income and claiming suspicious new
offsets to which he was not entitled. See, e.g., R.
182 (Trial Tr. at 32-35) (Page ID #4602-4605).
7, 2015 Rankin was charged with seven counts of failure to
account for and pay over withholding, FICA, and Medicare
taxes involving Rankin Enterprises and Tuscan Table in
violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7202, six counts of
subscription of false individual income tax returns in
violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1), three counts of
subscription of false CSI income tax returns in violation of
the same statute, and one count of corruptly endeavoring to
obstruct the due administration of the Internal Revenue laws
in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a). R. 1 (Indictment at
1-5) (Page ID #1-5).
moved to dismiss Count 17 of the indictment, which charged
him with corruptly endeavoring to obstruct the due
administration of the tax laws in violation of 26 U.S.C.
§ 7212(a). R. 50 (Mot. to Dismiss Count 17 of
Indictment) (Page ID #1249). Count 17 alleged that
"[f]rom on or about January 1, 2005, through the date of
the filing of this Indictment [on July 7, 2015]" Rankin
had "willfully misl[ed] agents of the IRS by making
false and misleading statements to those agents and by
concealing information sought by those agents who he well
knew were attempting to ascertain income, expenses and taxes
for [Rankin] and his various business entities and
interests." R. 1 (Indictment at 5) (Page ID #5). Rankin
argued that this language was vague, mostly parroted the
language of the statute without adding factual detail, and
encompassed an approximately ten-year period without
highlighting specific instances of misconduct. See
R. 50 (Mot. to Dismiss Count 17 of Indictment at 5) (Page ID
#1253). He further argued that the language of Count 17 was
so vague that it was impossible to tell whether the
challenged conduct was already covered by one of the other
counts in the indictment, violating the Double Jeopardy
district court ordered the government to respond to
Rankin's motion either with a memorandum or with a bill
of particulars. R. 89 (Jul. 13, 2017 Order at 3) (Page ID
#1624). The government responded with a memorandum arguing
that Rankin had been provided the relevant evidence
supporting Count 17 in discovery and highlighting particular
examples of occasions on which he had violated the statute.
R. 93 (Mem. Contra Mot. to Dismiss Count 17) (Page ID #1640).
The government also provided Rankin with a draft exhibit list
including evidence it intended to introduce at trial. It
argued that the ...