By SDCN Staff
San Diego, CA–A San Diego attorney and founding partner of a boutique San Diego law firm, was sentenced in federal court last Friday to one year and one day in custody for conspiring with former Chabad of Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein to commit tax fraud. He was also ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.
Beginning at least as early as 2010 and continuing through October 2018, Elliot Adler, 45, participated in a so-called “90/10” tax scheme with Rabbi Goldstein. Specifically, Adler gave money to Rabbi Goldstein that purported to be a donation to Chabad of Poway. Goldstein then secretly funneled ninety percent of the funds back to Adler, keeping ten percent of the funds as his fee. None of the donated funds was actually given to the Chabad as a charitable donation. Adler then falsely claimed that the fraudulent donations were tax-deductible on his tax returns, allowing him to reduce his personal income tax liability by approximately $500,000 (cumulatively) for tax years 2011 through 2017.
To accomplish the scheme, Adler and Goldstein communicated using coded language. Goldstein would refer to cash as “challah,” the source of the cash as “the baker,” and would invite co-conspirators to “wrap tefillin” when he proposed a meeting to receive checks or deliver cash. For example, on Thursday, January 7, 2016, Goldstein texted Adler, “Good morning I got the challah[.] What time?” That same day, Adler replied via text message, “Monday morning 8 a.m. at shul or today before 12 p.m. if you can come to my office.” Goldstein then replied, “Monday @8 is fine.” On January 11, 2016, Goldstein deposited a check from Adler for $30,000 payable to Chabad of Poway.
On or about December 29, 2017, Goldstein deposited two sequentially-numbered checks from Adler, one for $180,000 and the other for $980,000. On Friday, January 5, 2018, Goldstein sent Adler a coded text message proposing that they “get together and wrap teffilin.” A few days later, on January 10, 2018, Goldstein wired approximately $1 million to a wholesale and retail jeweler to purchase 246 Suisse Fortuna 1 oz. rectangular gold ingots, 246 Canadian Maple Leaf 1 oz. gold coins, and 246 American Eagle 1 oz. gold coins. On January 17, 2018, Goldstein sent another coded message to Adler asking him, “[w]hen can you come [i]n for a teffilin wrap? I’m ready for you.” Goldstein delivered the gold to Adler the next day. Adler nonetheless claimed on his 2017 tax returns that he had donated over $1 million to charity, fraudulently reducing his 2017 tax liability by approximately $447,000. Adler was ordered to forfeit the gold coins as part of his sentence.
At the hearing, U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant also ordered Adler to forfeit the gold. A restitution hearing is set for October 24,
Adler and Goldstein took additional steps to conceal their scheme from authorities. On or about October 18, 2018, Goldstein told Adler that he was under investigation by the IRS and that he had been the subject of an undercover operation relating to tax evasion. Goldstein asked for Adler’s help to prove, falsely, that Goldstein, and not Adler, was in possession of the gold coins purchased with Adler’s purported donation. In the early hours of October 19, 2018, Adler arrived at Goldstein’s residence and returned the gold coins.
In July 2020, Rabbi Goldstein pleaded guilty to fraud charges, admitting that he participated in a complex, years-long, multi-million-dollar tax-evasion scheme and other financial deceptions involving theft of public money. Rabbi Goldstein’s plea agreement outlined the fraud scheme with Adler.
Adler is the eleventh and final individual to be sentenced for crimes discovered in this investigation. Two additional individuals agreed to deferred prosecution agreements as a result of the investigation.
“For several years, Elliot Adler defrauded the United States while giving the false appearance of making charitable donations,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “This investigation and the resulting prosecutions should leave no doubt that the United States takes tax fraud seriously and those who perpetrate these schemes will be brought to justice.”
“For years, attorney Adler chose to ignore the laws and ethical rules of conduct he swore to uphold and conspired with others using sophisticated schemes to commit tax fraud,” said Special Agent in Charge Stacey Moy of the FBI San Diego Field Office.