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Las Vegas judge reverses much of ruling involving victims’ tax records

A federal judge has reversed much of a magistrate’s order for tax records pertaining to the victims of an alleged $190 million Ponzi scheme.

The defendant, Ramon DeSage, had sought the records, saying they were needed to demonstrate that the alleged victims failed to report cash receipts from DeSage to the IRS. That information would have been used by DeSage’s defense to question their credibility.

Under U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach’s order, the government would have been required to hand over the tax records. The new ruling from U.S. District Judge Jennifer Dorsey, handed down this week, reverses much of that.

In her decision, Dorsey called Ferenbach’s order “clearly erroneous” because it was based on the premise that the prosecution had all the requested tax records, though that was not the case. Court records indicate prosecutors only had tax data for two of the alleged victims, Jacob Hefetz and Herb Frey.

DeSage had requested the tax returns of the alleged victims covering the years 2005 through 2014 and also requested records for their spouses and companies.

In a decision in August 2015, Ferenbach ordered prosecutors to hand over the tax returns of former casino executive William Richardson and other investors. That decision also required the government to give tax returns of the investors’ spouses and their companies for that same time period.

Richardson is alleged to have lost up to $40 million while investing with DeSage, more than any of the other victims.

“Mr. Richardson appreciates a well-reasoned opinion that prevents multiple victims from being victimized again by the defendant, and the law clearly did not allow this fishing expedition, and the judge so ruled,” said David Chesnoff, Richardson’s attorney.

Federal prosecutors had objected to the magistrate judge’s order, calling it too broad. Richardson had filed a motion for relief under the Crime Victim Rights Act. The new order makes that moot.

The new order also sent the case back to the magistrate judge to determine whether the returns for Hefetz and Frey, or any part of them, should be provided to the defense.

Ferenbach issued an order Wednesday setting a schedule for arguments to be filed from both sides before a decision is made.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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