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NYC attorney with north country ties indicted on tax evasion charge

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A New York City attorney who has represented several members of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe on various issues for more than two decades has been indicted on federal charges alleging he evaded taxes and failed to report large cash payments he received.

Stanley L. Cohen, 61, faces counts in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, of obstructing and impeding the Internal Revenue Service and failing to file required reports regarding currency transactions.

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Mr. Cohen failed to file individual and corporate federal income tax returns from 2005 to 2010. He also is alleged to have received more than $10,000 in currency in one transaction during the course of his law practice and failed to maintain books and records documenting financial information about his practice.

Richard S. Hartunian, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York, said in a prepared statement Friday that Mr. Cohen allegedly solicited and received cash payments for legal services, keeping significant amounts of cash in a safe and a safety deposit box, paying for expenses of his practice with cash. He also allegedly made regular deposits of cash into personal financial accounts, often in amounts of less than $10,000 in order to avoid the filing of currency transaction reports as required under U.S. Code.

The indictment also alleges that Mr. Cohen failed to file required forms after his law practice received $20,000 in cash in August 2008, either from or on behalf of a client, and that he failed to report $15,000 in Canadian currency received in summer 2010. The indictment seeks the forfeiture of the $35,000.

Mr. Cohen has represented several criminal defendants in the north country, including a Mohawk businessman who pleaded guilty in 1998 to failing to file currency reports stemming from what prosecutors claimed was a $700 million cigarette and alcohol smuggling operation. He also represented one of six defendants convicted of conspiring to rob Daniel P. Simonds in 2008 at his town of Stockholm residence. During an ensuing struggle, Mr. Simonds was shot and killed in what prosecutors said was a drug-related robbery. Mr. Cohen also has represented defendants in Jefferson County Court.

The attorney represented parents of three St. Regis Mohawk School students in a 2005 federal lawsuit against the Salmon River Central School District over whether a traditional Mohawk thanksgiving address constituted a prayer and whether it should be recited at the school. The school district banned the recital of the address at the school, citing the constitutional separation of church and state, while the parents argued the address was a “non-religious expression of Mohawk culture.” The suit was dismissed in 2007, with a judge agreeing with the district.

If convicted of the charges contained in the indictment, Mr. Cohen faces up to five years in prison on the currency reporting charge and three years imprisonment on the tax-evasion charge. Both charges carry a maximum fine of $250,000. Mr. Cohen had not been arraigned on the charges as of Friday.

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