It’s not every day that a judge sentences a son and his parents together – but that’s what happened Friday in federal court to a Vienna family. Ultimately, two family members received probation and the third was sentenced to prison.
In U.S. District Court in Alexandria, on May 9, were Henry Washington Yeh, 32; his father, Jimmy An-Twig Yeh, 56; and mother, Zhi Hua Wang Yeh, 60. On Feb. 26, Henry pleaded guilty to filing false and fraudulent tax returns, and his parents pleaded guilty to helping him do so.
“I’ve done several things I’m not proud of and I’m devastated that my parents are here today because of me,” said Henry Yeh before sentencing. “I apologize to the court and to them. I was blinded by greed.”
IN A STATEMENT OF FACTS filed with their February plea agreement, he admitted that, from 2004 through 2009, he made $1 million in cash from selling more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. But he didn’t tell the IRS. In 2009, 2010 and 2012, Yeh filed false and fraudulent federal income tax returns with the IRS for taxable years 2005, 2006 and 2007.
He didn’t truthfully list how much money he made, nor his income source. And his parents – who knew about his illegal income – helped him file a false tax return for 2007.
Yeh also used his drug proceeds to purchase some $2.1 million worth of assets, either in his name or jointly with others, including real estate in Ashburn and Washington, D.C. But he and his parents have now had to forfeit them all to the federal government, along with an SUV, $918,166 from an investment brokerage account and $100,000 in cash.
In court Friday, Judge Gerald Bruce Lee sentenced Jimmy Yeh first. “This was essentially an economic crime,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Taylor. “He filed false tax returns to cover his son’s illicit drug proceeds.” She said the Yeh trio realized $1.1 million from Henry’s marijuana distribution and made $250,000 in rents from the properties they bought with Henry’s drug money. Taylor then said Jimmy should receive six months incarceration and a $10,000 fine.
“He knows he committed a crime, but this is a 56-year-old individual who’s never been in trouble in his life – and it may cost him his real-estate license and, therefore, his way of making a living,” said defense attorney John Zwerling. “He’s kind and gentle, gave to charity, fed the poor and did good things in the community. He’s lived an extraordinarily good life until this screw-up, for which he’ll live with the consequences.”
Standing before the judge, Jimmy Yeh said, “I’m sorry for my conduct in this case and ashamed of the shame I brought on my family.”
Because of Jimmy’s actions, said Lee, “The Treasury was robbed of the $10,000 it would have received to support things like schools and roads. Your son cheated the taxpayers and you helped him do it. But this wasn’t in character for you, and I don’t think I need to put you in prison to prove a point.”
“You’ll lose your right to vote and you may lose your livelihood,” continued Lee. “You’ll have to pay $10,226 in back taxes to the IRS, plus a $10,000 fine. I’ll place you on two years supervised probation and you must notify the Virginia Real Estate Board of your conviction. Any unexpected financial gains you receive will go toward paying your debt, and you will not open any new lines of credit without your probation officer’s permission.”
Next up was Zhi Hua Wang Yeh. “This defendant was aware … that [her son] pleaded guilty to drug dealing,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Pedersen. “Two months later, she helped him prepare his tax return. She knew how he’d earned his money.”
But defense attorney Nina Ginsberg said Zhi pleaded guilty to encouraging her husband to get a CPA to help her son. “She knew he was going to file inaccurate returns,” said Ginsberg. “Her actual involvement was less than Jimmy’s and involved discussions before Henry’s guilty plea.”
Ginsberg said, if incarcerated, her client could lose her job at the post office, where she’s worked for 20 years. “She’s selfless and is responsible for her elderly parents’ health care,” said the attorney. “And for a year, she worked during the day in a struggling family restaurant and paid her brother’s mortgage when his wife was ill. She clearly turned a blind eye [to Henry’s activities], but I think probation is appropriate.
VIA A MANDARIN CHINESE INTERPRETER, Zhi addressed the judge. “I know there’s no excuse for my actions and what I did was wrong,” she said. Crying, she added, “I raised my son and did not do a good job, and I’ve grown a lot from this.”
“You knew your son was depositing large amounts of money into your account … and that he made a lot more than $12,000 in 2007,” said Lee. “I’m sure you taught your children integrity and honesty, but what you did cheated the taxpayers.”
However, considering her life as a whole, plus her 20 years’ service to the post office, he gave her the same sentence as her husband. In her case, said Lee, “Jail is unnecessary and excessive.”
Henry, though, was another matter.