Pacquiao’s former tax accountant arrested for fraud
LOS ANGELES—A former tax accountant of world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao was arrested yesterday for pocketing his clients’ tax refunds, among other charges of fraud.
Michael Joseph Calalang Cabuhat, 40, was arrested by special agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation and the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
Cabuhat was charged with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and “structuring financial transactions to evade reporting requirements,” according to the US Department of Justice.
“Corrupt tax return preparers harm their clients, other taxpayers and the United States government,” said United States
Attorney Eileen M. Decker in a statement. “Mr. Cabuhat’s clients entrusted him with an important duty that we all have at this time of year, and he abused that fundamental trust.”
Cabuhat is part-owner of VisionQwest Resource Group Inc., which operates VisionQwest Accountancy Group and Icon Tax Group Inc., both located in Glendale, California.
According to a 36-page affidavit, Cabuhat has defrauded clients by diverting their tax refunds into his own bank accounts. He had stolen $1.2 million in refunds that should have gone to 144 clients from 2010 through 2015, the affidavit said.
Cabuhat was also charged with structuring a $29,700 cash deposit to evade the reporting requirement for transactions exceeding $10,000.
The day after the structured transactions were completed, Cabuhat wrote a $24,500 check to purchase a Ferrari 360 Spider, a photo of which he had posted on his Facebook page. The vehicle was seized yesterday by federal agents.
If convicted, Cabuhat would face a maximum sentence of 27 years in federal prison.
In his LinkedIn profile, Cabuhat claimed he had represented high-profile clients like the Mandelas of South Africa and many celebrities in entertainment and sports, including Pacquiao.
He referred to himself as the “celebritytaxguy” in social media postings.
Cabuhat, who was born and raised in the Philippines, lives in the swanky Hollywood Hills neighborhood, home to many celebrities.
He recently posted on Facebook and Instagram a photo of AiAi de las Alas signing what appeared to be a tax return form next to her passport and other identification cards, saying, “Yup. She’s doing her assignment. She’s filling it up and she’s excited to file. Newest member of the Icon family.”
A second photo showed Cabuhat posing with the comedian, who held a sign with the tax firm’s name, described as “your professional tax and accounting firm you can trust.”
Cabuhat was arrested during the busiest period for tax preparers, when last-minute tax filers are rushing to meet the April 15 deadline for filing state and federal income tax returns.