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Disbarred lawyer Stanley Needleman sentenced for tax evasion

Former lawyer Stanley Needleman was sentenced Thursday to a year and a day in prison for tax evasion and structuring bank deposits to avoid reporting requirements.

Needleman, 69, also must serve three years of supervised release following his incarceration, pay $543,695 to the IRS and $117,319 to the state for tax losses, and forfeit nearly $500,000. All the money will come from $1.15 million in cash the Drug Enforcement Administration seized in April from two safes in Needleman’s basement.

Needleman “sought to avoid detection by hoarding the money in his basement instead of spending it on a lavish lifestyle, but a thorough investigation proved him wrong,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Judge Roger W. Titus imposed the sentence in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, where Needleman had entered his guilty pleas on Sept. 1.

Under the plea deal, Needleman was facing up to 46 months in prison.

In opting for a lighter sentence, Titus cited character-witness testimony by several lawyers and the fact that Needleman consented to disbarment as part of the plea agreement.

Court documents outlined a multiyear effort by Needleman to hide income from the IRS and to conceal the tax fraud by depositing money in his personal bank account in increments of less than $10,000 to get around reporting requirements.

As a business owner, Needleman’s taxes were determined by deposits into his firm’s account. But his clients often paid in cash — as much as $30,000 for defending a felony drug charge in federal court — and Needleman was the one who took the envelope full of cash home every night and brought it back to the office empty the next morning.

Federal investigators reviewed Needleman’s tax returns and bank records for the 2005 to 2009 and, based on the number and types of cases he had handled, estimated he had failed to report about $1.5 million in income over five years.

“Greed seemed to have gotten the best of Mr. Needleman,” Ava Cooper-Davis, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in a joint statement with Rosenstein.

Kenneth W. Ravenell, Needleman’s lawyer, characterized Needleman’s actions as a mistake after the plea agreement in September.

“For 40 years Mr. Needleman has been a great attorney who has helped many people,” Ravenell said. “Obviously in this case he’s made a mistake and he’s been a man and admitted to that mistake.”