Michael Quiel’s battle to clear his name from his 2013 wrongful conviction is one step closer to fruition
By Ron Lee
In the persistent legal efforts of the government to pursue Michael Quiel, U.S. attorneys argued in a civil action that Quiel bore responsibility for penalties surpassing $2.2 million associated with foreign bank accounts crucial to his 2013 wrongful criminal conviction of Willful Subscription to False Individual Income Tax Returns. On January 12, 2024, following a four-hour deliberation, a jury ruled that Quiel lacked a financial interest in the mentioned Swiss Bank Accounts, a finding that could have significant implications for reversing his prior conviction and stop any further government civil actions.
Quiel’s 2013 false conviction cost him 10 months of his freedom in a federal prison, millions of dollars fighting the erroneous prosecution and much more trying to overturn the wrongful conviction, his marriage of 39 years, literally $2 Billion of income in a contract he lost due to the wrongful prosecution and conviction, and years of his life labelled a felon.
In 2013 a Federal Judge determined there were ZERO Taxes due at Quiel’s sentencing. In 2018, the US~Observer began an investigation into multiple aspects of Quiel’s case including Christopher Rusch, the tax attorney who absconded with Quiel’s investment funds, set-up and controlled the foreign accounts and was the key “witness” against Quiel at trial. Our investigation and corresponding stories all show that Michael Quiel was innocent of the charges of which he was convicted.
US~Observer Editor-in-Chief, Edward Snook, said of the recent verdict, “We are glad that a well-educated jury was empaneled who could see the plain truth through all of the government’s concocted lies and outright fraud.”
Currently, Quiel is set to fight yet another bid by the government to assess taxes on him for the years associated with his criminal conviction. According to Quiel’s lead attorney, Brandon Keim, “We have this other Tax Court case we’re dealing with. The government is saying he has an income tax deficiency for 2007, 2008, which all relates to the Swiss accounts. So, if our winning F bar determination becomes a final judgment, the government will be precluded from arguing that he had any interest in the Swiss accounts in the Tax Court case. We expect that issue preclusion would help us resolve the Tax Court case positively.”
The real question is can Quiel owe taxes on Swiss accounts of which had no ownership? Nothing seems beyond the reach of government corruption.
Brandon Keim’s law firm, Frazer Ryan Goldberg & Arnold, LLP, issued the following statement:
Frazer Ryan Goldberg & Arnold, LLP, a leading Arizona-based law firm, is pleased to announce that on January 12, 2024, senior partner Brandon Keim and attorneys Trisha Farrow and Ida Araya prevailed in the United States District Court in a jury trial, obtaining a total victory for their client, Michael Quiel, by defending against the United States’ claim that he owed $2.2 million in penalties for failing to report foreign bank accounts on an FBAR form (FinCEN Form 114) for 2007 and 2008.
The CTA is intended to aid law enforcement by reducing the use of front companies with anonymous ownership. It requires many companies to disclose their beneficial ownership information to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S.
In 2007, Michael Quiel sought to expand his business and retained Christopher Rusch, an attorney, to assist him in acquiring international investors. Rusch represented himself as an expert in structuring international corporations to be compliant with United States tax laws. Based upon Rusch’s assurances that he was an international tax expert and he could assist in creating and operating a foreign bank which would allow foreign investors to invest in Quiel’s United States based projects, Quiel retained Rusch to assist him in raising capital from the international market. Rusch repeatedly assured Quiel that the transactions would be completely legal and tax compliant under both the United States and Swiss tax laws. Quiel understood that he owned a four percent interest in Rusch’s Swiss investment bank.
During the time that Quiel believed Rusch was creating a foreign bank for himself and acting to ensure that Quiel satisfied all of the United States and Swiss tax laws, Rusch requested Quiel e-mail a copy of his passport to him. As Quiel had no reason to distrust Rusch, he forwarded a copy of his passport to Rusch. Unbeknownst to Quiel, Rusch used Quiel’s personal information to open accounts at the Swiss banks UBS and Pictet & Cie listing Quiel as the beneficial owner.
In 2011, Quiel was indicted for Conspiracy, Willful Subscription to False Individual Income Tax Returns, and Willful Failure to file FBARs for the Swiss accounts. Quiel’s now disbarred attorney Rusch aka Christian Reeves, clearly committed perjury when he testified against Quiel at the criminal trial in 2013. Quiel was convicted of Willful Subscription to False Individual Income Tax Returns. He was acquitted of Conspiracy, and the jury returned no verdict on the Willful Failure to File FBARs charges.
Relentless in its pursuit against Quiel, in 2021, the Department of Justice filed a complaint in the United States District Court alleging that Quiel willfully failed to file FBARs for the Swiss accounts for 2007 and 2008 and was subject to penalties under 31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5)(C). The Department of Justice sought to recover $2.2 million as of September 2019, but noted that the balance continued to accrue interest, penalties, and costs.
During the jury trial, Frazer Ryan’s attorneys Keim and Farrow argued that Quiel did not have a financial interest in the Swiss accounts because he did not control them, they were held by Swiss corporations that Quiel did not control, and Quiel was unaware that he was listed as the beneficial owner. Keim and Farrow argued that if the jury determined Quiel had a financial interest, his failure to report the accounts on FBARs was not willful due to his reliance on Rusch’s advice.
The United States presented testimony from representatives of Swiss banks UBS and Pictet & Cie, each of whom verified the authenticity of the Swiss bank records but confirmed that the Swiss banks were not required to verify and did not verify that Quiel was actually a beneficial owner of the Swiss accounts. The representative from Pictet & Cie, who made the 5,700-mile journey from Switzerland to Arizona, testified during questioning by Farrow that any of the jurors could have been listed as a beneficial owner of the Swiss accounts. Keim argued in closing to the jury that the United States failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that Quiel had a financial interest in the Swiss accounts. The United States failed to present any testimony from the directors of the Swiss corporations that were listed as account holders, and the United States failed to present any testimony from the financial intermediaries or external account managers that completed the account opening forms listing Quiel as the beneficial owner.
After four and a half hours of deliberation, the 8-member jury returned a verdict finding that Quiel did not have a financial interest in any of the Swiss accounts during 2007 and 2008. Because of Quiel’s complete victory on the financial interest issue, the jury was not required to decide whether Quiel was willful in failing to report the accounts on FBARs because he had no requirement to report such accounts on the FBARs. The foreperson of the jury commented to Keim, Farrow, and Araya that the jury determined that the United States, who had the burden of proof, failed to provide sufficient evidence that Quiel had an interest in the Swiss accounts. The foreperson of the jury hugged Quiel after the trial and wished him well.
“The US~Observer is grateful that Quiel found a team of attorneys who were able to expose the same truth inside the court room that we have publicly disseminated for the last several years.” Snook continued, “We won’t stop until Quiel has been completely vindicated, and that day is fast approaching.”
Feel free to read our in-depth coverage of Michael Quiel’s case below.