Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Botti Convicted Of Hiding Money From IRS

By EDMUND H. MAHONY The Hartford Courant

12:43 p.m. EST, November 10, 2009 (Connecticut)

A federal jury today convicted developer James Botti of trying to hide cash transactions from the Internal Revenue Service in the first of two trials that are expected to focus on corrupt payments made to expedite construction projects in the fast-growing Naugatuck Valley city of Shelton.

Jurors on Tuesday morning found Botti, 46, of Shelton guilty of structuring cash transactions in amounts less than $10,000 to avoid federal financial reporting requirements and conspiring to structure transactions. Both convictions carry maximum sentences of five years in prison. The jury acquitted Botti of two charges that he lied to the IRS when he denied possessing substantial amounts of cash and receiving cash rents from commercial tenants.

Presiding U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. instructed jurors to continue deliberating on a forfeiture count against Botti, a charge that could force Botti to forfeit money or property to the federal government if it is sustained by the jury.

Botti was indicted in November 2008 on several charges related to efforts to avoid cash reporting laws and to making corrupt payments to public officials in Shelton. Haight divided the charges and Botti is scheduled to stand trial at an undetermined future date on charges of conspiracy to defraud the citizens of Shelton of honest government, bribery, and mail fraud.

Among other things, Botti is charged in the corruption case with bribing Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti, an anti-tax, pro-development Republican who is a political power in the lower Naugatuck Valley.

Lauretti has not been charged in the Botti case, nor is he named in prosecution legal filings that outline the cases against Botti. But several sources, including Botti's lawyer, have identified Lauretti as Public Official Number 1, a mysterious political figure named in the indictment against Botti as a recipient of cash bribes.

Lauretti is dismissive of allegations linking him to corrupt activity and was elected to a record 10th term last week following a campaign conducted against a flurry of publicity marking the run-up to Botti's trial.

The presentation of evidence in Botti's first trial began and ended over three days last week and was based on banking records that suggest he tried to hide large amounts of cash by moving it through a bank account opened by his father, who is charged in a separate case as a co-conspirator.

Most of the transactions were made in amounts of less than $10,000. Under federal law, banks are required to report cash transactions greater than $10,000 to the IRS.

"What was the goal of the conspiracy?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard J. Schechter asked jurors while summing up his case on November 5. "To get to use the money without the IRS knowing. Mr. Botti hid cash and lied to the IRS because he had a secret."

During the presentation of evidence, jurors were presented with a series of charts that described suspect bank transactions, all involving just less than $10,000 in cash. They heard evidence of two cash payments totaling $65,000 from Botti to a masonry contractor. The jurors also heard how Botti's 81-year old father sneaked about $870,000 in cash from Botti's office behind the back of an Internal Revenue Service agent.

Federal prosecutors told jurors that Botti may have obtained as much as $2 million in cash through the cash sale of one of his development projects.

William F. Dow III, Botti's lawyer, argued to jurors that under varying interpretations of financial reporting laws, Botti had reason to believe his cash transactions were legal.

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant


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