A veteran Las Vegas attorney was sentenced Thursday to 41 months in prison for structuring bank deposits to avoid paying taxes.
Paul Wommer, a former prosecutor who has been licensed to practice law in Nevada for three decades, learned his fate as his two-hour hearing concluded in U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro’s courtroom. Navarro also ordered Wommer to pay a $7,500 fine and forfeit nearly $76,000.
“Mr. Wommer practiced what we call financial trickery, financial sleight of hand,” said Paul Camacho, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation field office in Las Vegas. “It’s something that prosecutors regularly see criminals do to launder their money. And in this case, Mr. Wommer used it to evade taxes. Interestingly, he was a federal prosecutor. Hopefully this sends a strong message that those who are well versed in the law are not above the law.”
Wommer, 60, declined to comment as he left the courtroom with his attorney, Stan Hunterton. He must surrender to prison by Nov. 20.
During the hearing, Wommer apologized for bringing shame to himself and his family.
“I am here because I overreacted to a situation, and the way I reacted was outside the law,” the defendant told Navarro.
Wommer said he reacted the way he did because he thought the IRS was treating him unfairly.
“I just wanted equal treatment,” he said. “That was all I was seeking, and I didn’t get it, and I got mad.”
After a three-day bench trial in April, Navarro convicted Wommer of three counts of unlawfully structuring financial transactions, one count of tax evasion and one count of filing a false tax return.
Evidence showed that Wommer, with the help of his part-time legal assistant, unlawfully structured more than $138,000 in a series of 15 bank transactions in June and July 2010. He did so in an attempt to avoid paying about $13,000 in federal income taxes.
All the transactions were under the $10,000 federal cash reporting limit designed to combat money laundering.
Prosecutors alleged during the trial that Wommer withdrew cash from his personal and business bank accounts in amounts under $10,000 and then instructed his assistant to deposit the money into her personal account.
Wommer did not deny the unlawful conduct on the witness stand but attributed his actions to serious head injuries he suffered in a 1991 skiing accident.
Navarro determined Wommer obstructed justice during other portions of his trial testimony, and that ruling increased the range of potential penalties.
During his statement to the judge, Wommer said he paid all the taxes he owed, plus penalties and interest. He also asked Navarro to look at his achievements, and not just his criminal behavior.
“Las Vegas is my adopted home, and I tried to make this a better place to live by volunteering my time,” Wommer said.
In a soft voice, he asked the judge to consider granting him probation.
Wommer spent five months as a prosecutor in the Nevada attorney general’s office before leaving in May 2010. He also has worked as a federal and county prosecutor.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Duncan said Wommer had once been entrusted to enforce the same laws he later violated.
“That makes this case particularly egregious,” Duncan told the judge.
Hunterton said he expected Wommer to lose his law license by the end of the day.
Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-384-8710.