A federal jury sitting in Greensboro convicted a Pinehurst couple of conspiring to defraud the IRS and other federal employment tax and income tax violations, according to a press release from the United States Department of Justice on Sept. 20.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, from 1992 through the present, James Rice was an orthopedic surgeon who owned and operated Sandhills Orthopaedic & Spine Clinic, a medical practice located in Pinehurst. His wife, Susan Rice, worked at Sandhills Orthopaedic and handled the administrative operations. Susan Rice also owned and operated a truffle business.
Between 2007 and 2016, the Rices conspired to defraud the United States with respect to Sandhills Orthopaedic’s employment taxes and their individual income taxes. The Rices withheld nearly $580,000 in Social Security and other tax withholdings from Sandhills Orthopaedic’s employees’ wages, but rather than pay the withheld taxes to the IRS, used the withheld taxes to fund personal expenditures. The Rices also did not file individual tax returns for the 2014 through 2016 tax years despite being required to do so by law.
To conceal their income, the Rices transferred funds from Sandhills Orthopaedic’s bank accounts to other accounts that they controlled, such as those for Susan Rice’s truffle business. The Rices also used their business bank accounts to fund personnel expenditures, including a country-club membership, dog kennel boarding and rent for their personal residence. In total, from June 2013 through December 2016, the Rices diverted at least $1 million in cash and check co-payments to Sandhills Orthopaedic directly into their personal bank accounts.
James and Susan Rice will be sentenced at a later date. They face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison for each count of conspiracy, tax evasion and employment tax fraud, and they face an additional one year in prison for each count of failing to file individual and corporate tax returns. The Rices are further subject to additional monetary penalties, supervised release and restitution.
IRS-Criminal Investigation investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Alexander Effendi and Michael Jones and paralegal Kim Better of the Tax Division are prosecuting this case.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.
Feature photo: Sandhills Orthopaedic & Spine Clinic on Page Road displays a closed sign on its door when they were indicted on tax crimes in October 2020/Sandhills Sentinel.