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United States v. Garrity

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 3, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
DIANE M. GARRITY, PAUL G. GARRITY, JR., and PAUL M. STERCZALA, as fiduciaries of the Estate of Paul G. Garrity, Sr., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff, the United States of America (“the Government”), filed this suit to reduce to judgment a civil penalty the Internal Revenue Service assessed against Paul G. Garrity, Sr., under 31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5), for his alleged willful failure to report his interest in a foreign account he held in 2005, in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5314. In anticipation of trial, which is scheduled for June, the Court ordered the parties to submit briefs addressing the legal question of what standard of proof governs this case-preponderance of the evidence or clear and convincing evidence. (ECF No. 99.) The Government argues that the standard of proof is preponderance of the evidence. Defendants Diane M. Garrity, Paul G. Garrity, Jr., and Paul M. Sterczala (collectively, “Defendants”), as fiduciaries of the Estate of Paul G. Garrity, Sr., argue that the standard of proof is clear and convincing evidence. In addition, although not ordered by the Court to do so, the parties have also briefed the separate question of whether the Government must show that Mr. Garrity, Sr. intentionally violated a known legal duty to establish a “willful” violation of Section 5314 or whether the Government may satisfy its burden of proof by showing that Mr. Garrity, Sr. acted recklessly. Defendants urge the former standard, while the Government urges the latter.

         For the reasons discussed below, I agree with the Government on both issues.

         I. Background

         A. Procedural Background

         The Government filed this action on February 20, 2015 to collect an outstanding civil penalty, known as the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”) penalty, from the estate of Mr. Garrity, Sr., who died in 2008. The Government had assessed the penalty against Mr. Garrity, Sr. for his allegedly willful failure to timely report his financial interest in, and/or his authority over, a foreign bank account for the 2005 calendar year, as required by 31 U.S.C. § 5314 and its implementing regulations. (ECF No. 1.) The balance of the penalty as of February 20, 2015 was $1, 061, 181.09. Jury selection is currently scheduled for June 6, 2018.

         B. Section 5321(a)(5)

         The relevant portions of subsection (a)(5) of 31 U.S.C. § 5321, the statute under which the United States sues to recover a civil FBAR penalty, provide:

         (A) Penalty authorized. - The Secretary of the Treasury may impose a civil money penalty on any person who violates, or causes any violation of, any provision of section 5314.

(B) Amount of penalty. -
(i) In general. - Except as provided in subparagraph (C), the amount of any civil penalty imposed under subparagraph (A) shall not exceed $10, 000.
(ii) Reasonable cause exception. - No. penalty shall be imposed under subparagraph (A) with respect to any violation if -
(I) such violation was due to reasonable cause, and
(II) the amount of the transaction or the balance in the account at the time of the transaction was properly reported.
(C) Willful violations. - In the case of any person willfully violating, or willfully causing any violation of, any ...

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