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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Crime & Courts

Judge nixes tax scammer’s request to return seized items

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Published:   |   Updated: February 28, 2014 at 02:33 PM

TAMPA — A federal judge had a quick answer for a tax fraud convict who wanted all his booty back: Um, no.

Russell Simmons, who is serving more than 12 years in federal prison for using stolen identities to try to steal nearly $9 million from U.S. taxpayers, filed a motion a few days ago asking that prosecutors be ordered to return seized items, including a 2005 Bentley, $25,000 in cash, more than $100,000 on debit cards and a cache of diamond and gold jewelry, including a large, diamond-encrusted pendant with his initials.

The items were forfeited to the government as part of a plea deal, but Simmons claimed in a court filing that they were illegally seized.

U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore noted Simmons agreed to the deal and failed to appeal his conviction and sentence.

The motion, Whittemore added, “is an improper and frivolous attempt to challenge a component of his sentence.”

The rule that Simmons cited to justify his request, Whittemore added, applies only to property that is seized as evidence, not items that have been seized by the government.

So taxpayers will also get to keep:

• An 18-carat gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day Date watch with a diamond dial.

• A 14-carat gold double Cuban link chrome chain.

• A 14-carat gold men’s ring with 110 diamonds.

• A 14-carat gold men’s bracelet with 2,420 round diamonds.

• A 14-carat gold men’s square ring.

• A KC stainless steel men’s watch with 57 diamonds.

• A KC stainless steel men’s watch with 33 diamonds.

Simmons was prosecuted and sentenced last year to 15 years in federal prison. The sentence was later reduced to 12 years because of Simmons’ cooperation in another case; Simmons testified last May against a drug dealer who received life on a federal conviction.

Simmons also asked Whittemore to reduce his sentence further because he doesn’t think he got enough credit for the help he gave in the drug dealer’s case.

The judge had a similar response to that motion: Denied.

esilvestrini@tampatrib.com

813-259-7837

Twitter: @ElaineTBO

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