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Virginia TV news anchor pleads guilty to tax fraud charge

There are a lot of ways that a person might wind up on the Internal Revenue Service's version of a watch list. How it happens, though, is perhaps less important than what can happen if no action is taken when it does happen. Action is called for and it's always best to do it with the help of an attorney experienced in dealing with such matters.

The rather high-profile case of former Norfolk, Virginia, TV news anchor, Juliet Bickford, is what prompts this observation. Readers likely are aware of the fact that the 35-year-old Bickford recently resigned from her position and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor tax fraud charge. But what brought her to IRS attention were events for which she was not charged.

According to reports about the case, Bickford got linked to an international fraud scheme through a former boyfriend, a Greek national by the name of Theodoros "Terry" Grontis."

Authorities claim that Grontis and two Canadian cohorts operated a phony business offering to recover assets for clients who thought they'd been cheated in divorce or business. They would allegedly collect fees, but never deliver any results. Officials say Grontis funneled more than $500,000 in wire transfers into accounts held by Bickford. She claimed she allowed it because she believed Grontis couldn't get an account of his own.

Last year, a grand jury indicted Grontis and the Canadians on wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges. Shortly after that, Grontis fled the country, leaving Bickford to fend for herself.

Having apparently cooperated with investigators, Bickford faced no charges in connection with the alleged scheme. But she was charged, and pleaded guilty to, filing a false tax return for 2011. She had claimed the cost of a hot tub as a medical deduction, but the IRS said she wasn't entitled to it because receipts showed her mother had paid for it.

As a result of her plea, Bickford will reportedly have to pay $10,000 in restitution, refile returns for 2010 and 2011 and pay whatever is due in adjusted taxes plus interest and penalties.

Considering what might have been, some legal experts would likely consider the outcome a positive one.

Source: Forbes, "Hot Tub Tax Machine: News Anchor Takes Plea In Scandal," Kelly Phillips Erb, Jan. 19, 2014

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