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Personal injury attorney sentenced to prison for failure to pay taxes

An Oshkosh personal injury attorney was sentenced Monday to six months in federal prison for not paying taxes between 2007 and 2009.

George Curtis Jr., 77, will have to pay $377,930 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, the amount he didn’t pay for three years, as well as $3,878.28 for the cost of prosecuting him. Eastern District Chief Judge William Griesbach also sentenced Curtis to one year of supervised release once he is released from prison.

A jury convicted Curtis in January of three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file a return, supply information, or pay taxes. According to a news release from U.S. Attorney Jim Santelle’s office, Curtis filed tax returns for 2007 through 2009 – which showed his firm, Curtis Law Office, made more than $1.2 million in those years – yet didn’t pay any of the money. Instead, he used $1 million to pay for personal expenditures.

According to the release, Curtis also did not pay taxes for 2003 and 2004. He has to report to prison after July 7, according to court filings.

Curtis – who graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1962 – said Tuesday he will appeal the case. He maintains he paid part of the taxes the IRS said he owed, yet they were applied to a different year without his knowledge.

“This wasn’t easy and I’ve had a clean record,” Curtis said. “I haven’t had a traffic ticket in 40 years, but the IRS decided I was their target and they won their case. I believe in the jury system. I’ve spent my whole life at it.”

Curtis’ attorney, Frank Gimbel of Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP said he will ask for a stay of the sentence pending the appeal.

Gimbel said he never argued during the trial that his client had paid his taxes. Instead, he said he focused on the “willful” part of the charge, and that interest and penalties imposed by the IRS added up to the point that Curtis was paying those and wasn’t able to put money toward the actual taxes he owed.

He also said he thought the sentence was “rather stiff.”

Curtis has never been disciplined by the Office of Lawyer Regulation. OLR Director Keith Sellen said he couldn’t say whether his investigators were looking into Curtis, but did say attorneys who are convicted of a crime have to report it to the office within 20 days.

Curtis is a past president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice. He received a lifetime service award from the organization in 2011.


About Eric Heisig

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