Phony IRS agent gets probation for lying to live in hotel

Eventually, the law will catch up with you. Sherry Lynn Vertoch just got probation and was ordered to repay $55,000 to the people she affected. What did Vertoch do? Well, she accumulated that monstrous tab while posing as an IRS agent and stiffing the Inn Marin hotel in Novato, California. The five-year probation sentence was sent down largely because of her illnesses, including diabetes and high blood pressure.

At first, Vertoch’s stays weren’t long. After 2008, she effectively moved in, staying for two years without paying her bill. Her home, room 121, cost $79 a night … well, it should have. To keep the hotel staff off her back, Vertoch told them she was an IRS agent working on an investigation. The story wore thin, however, and a co-owner of the hotel, Robert Marshall, reached out to the IRS to verify her story. It didn’t check out, and Vertoch ultimately wound up in cuffs.

Robert Marshall noted, “The real crime is, we’re a local family business. We don’t have deep pockets, and basically she’s taken money from our children and the families of all our employees. It’s tough times right now.”

Italians now know how much other Italians make. Mamma mia!

Can you imagine knowing how much all your friends, neighbors and coworkers make?

Italy’s IRS created a grand snooping opportunity Wednesday when it posted on its Web site the taxable income of just about every Italian citizen – for a few hours. There was a huge outcry, and the tax collector had to take the information down, NPR reports. Listen to the piece here.

According to BBC, the release of the information was one of the last acts of the outgoing center-left government and has shocked many tax-shy Italians. But it was also hugely popular, and within hours the site was overwhelmed and impossible to access.

According to an Italian government report from 2007, the amount of unpaid tax in the country is equivalent to 7% of gross domestic product. The finance ministry described the move as a “bid to improve transparency”.

I don’t think this kind of “transparency” generally goes over well.

Eliot Spitzer’s financial transactions flagged him. Could yours?

I heard an interesting piece of news about Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York’s call girl shenanigans. As one reporter explained in an NPR segment, one of the reasons he got caught is because his financial transactions flagged him. We’ve posted before about how you end up with a file when you travel out of the U.S. It’s been that way ever since 2002. Our money transactions through a bank are also run through systems.

Generally, our transactions, the day to day ones, like when we buy groceries at a store by swiping a debit card, are passed on without a blink of an eye. Most transactions are this way unless we happen to be a PEP. A PEP is a “politically exposed person” who is in a position of power where that person could possibly be involved in suspicious activities. If large amounts of cash are put into bank accounts–ding, ding, ding. We’ve got a red flag. The banks let the IRS know and there you have it, a possible scandal. That’s what happened in Eliot Spitzer’s case.

Those of us who don’t fit this category can benefit from the watch dog approach. Two years ago I got a call from my bank asking if I knew where my ATM card was. As it turned out, I had left it in a machine near a blood bank and a liquor store. Not the smartest move. In a couple of hours someone used the card as a debit card to the tune of almost $1,000. Because I rarely used my debit card, the purchases were at places where I hadn’t been before, and there were a few large ticket items, the bank recognized a problem and contacted me. The end result was that the money did come back into our account, but in the meantime, I had to borrow money from another fund to cover the missing money until everything cleared. In retrospect, it’s great not being a PEP. Life is simpler this way. (See NPR article and listen to the story by clicking here.)