Lawyer charged in $225 million U.S. tax scheme dies before trial

Signage is seen at the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Washington, D.C. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - A Houston-based tax attorney who was indicted on charges that he helped hide $225 million from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has died before his trial was set to start Monday, according to the judge presiding over his case.

"The court is advised that defendant Kepke has passed away," U.S. District Judge James Donato in San Francisco said in a Monday order canceling the trial.

Carlos Kepke, who was 83, was charged with helping Robert Smith, the billionaire founder of private equity Vista Equity Partners LLC, conceal $225 million from the IRS.

Richard Strassberg, a Goodwin Procter partner representing Kepke, could not immediately be reached. Kepke's lawyers said in court papers last month that Kepke had serious heart disease and had suffered two heart attacks, including one in 2019 that led to triple-bypass open-heart surgery and complications.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco did not provide any additional details about Kepke's death.

Smith was slated to testify at the trial that Kepke helped him hide millions of dollars using a series of offshore entities and foreign bank accounts. Prosecutors charged Kepke with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and helping file a materially false tax income.

Kepke pleaded not guilty to the charges. Smith signed a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, admitting to taking part in the tax evasion scheme and agreeing to pay $139 million in taxes and penalties.

Kepke is at least the second defendant to die while fighting charges in a criminal case connected to Smith. In August, 81-year-old Houston technology executive Robert Brockman died while awaiting trial in what prosecutors called the biggest tax evasion case in U.S. history.

Prosecutors said Brockman, the chief executive of Ohio-based Reynolds and Reynolds Co, hid $2 billion in income from the IRS over two decades, using a web of offshore companies in Bermuda and St. Kitts and Nevis.

Smith's cooperation helped lead to the charges against Brockman, prosecutors said. The two men had a business relationship dating back to 1997.

Read more:

Houston tech mogul Robert Brockman charged in record U.S. tax evasion scheme

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at d.thomas@thomsonreuters.com and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.