Two Face Federal Indictment

Two residents of Warren have been indicted by a federal grand jury in Erie on charges of violating federal tax and currency transaction laws, United States Attorney David J. Hickton announced Wednesday.

The 18-count indictment named Randall Branch, 62, and John Branch, 43, as defendants.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Western District of Pennsylvania, the indictment presented to the court charges that the defendants conspired to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions of the Internal Revenue Service; conspired to structure financial transactions to avoid currency transaction reporting requirements, and failed to file income tax returns for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011.

According to the Indictment, the father and son defendants owned a business through which they sold oil and natural gas through various brokers. Between 2006 and 2012, the indictment alleges, the defendants received combined gross income from their oil and natural gas business in excess of $6.9 million. It was a part of the conspiracy that despite their business income, the defendants stopped filing tax returns with the IRS after 1997, began to dispute their obligation to pay taxes, and challenged the authority of the IRS to assess and collect taxes.

As part of the conspiracy, the defendants avoided the financial threshold reporting requirements on the FinCEN Form 104, Currency Transaction Report (CTR) and impeded the function of the IRS to assess and collect taxes by structuring approximately $2,649,210 in financial transactions.

According to the indictment, the defendants did so by requiring certain business receipts to be broken down and issued in checks made out in amounts less than $10,000. The defendants then allegedly cashed those checks, regularly doing so with multiple checks, at different bank branches, on the same day. The defendants also used their business receipt checks to obtain bank teller checks to pay certain expenses and to make purchases of various assets including real estate and vehicles. Further, according to the indictment, the defendants used cash and business receipt checks to fund wire transfers for the purchase of approximately $484,367 of precious metals, further attempting to impede the function of the IRS to assess and collect taxes.

The law provides for a maximum total sentence of 63 years in prison, a fine of $3.3 million or both for each defendant. Under the federal sentencing guidelines, the actual sentence imposed would be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendants.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Piccinini is prosecuting the case.

The IRS, Criminal Investigation, conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in the case.

An indictment is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.