Former Seminole Tribal Council Member Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud: Authorities

David Roger Cypress “knowingly and willfully failed to report” about $285,000 he received from the tribe, authorities said

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    U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer

    A former Seminole Tribal Council member pleaded guilty Friday to one count of filing a false federal tax return in which he “knowingly and willfully failed to report” about $285,000 he received from the tribe in 2007, authorities said.

    David Roger Cypress of Clewiston was an elected representative for Big Cypress Reservation to the Tribal Council, the governing body of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, from at least 1999 to 2010. In that role, Cypress could authorize monetary distributions to tribal members, and he admitted that while on the Tribal Council, he authorized “substantial distributions” that were paid to himself or his family members, U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer and IRS Special Agent in Charge José Gonzalez announced.

    Cypress’s unreported 2007 income consisted of tribal payments made to certain vendors using vouchers that concealed that Cypress was the true beneficiary of the payments, Ferrer and Gonzalez said.

    The Tribal Council has five members.

    In addition to his guilty plea on the criminal charge, Cypress agreed to pay $5.46 million in tax, interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service that the agency determined he owed for tax years 2003-2009, Ferrer and Gonzalez added.

    Cypress is due to be sentenced on Aug. 9. He could get up to three years in prison.

    Cypress was known for his heavy spending and lavished tens of millions of dollars on himself, his family and other members of the tribe as the Seminole business empire rose with the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casinos in Hollywood and Tampa, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

    “Our tax system is based, in large part, on honest self-reporting. We require taxpayers to accurately report income earned,” Ferrer said in a statement. “The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to assist the IRS to enforce our nation’s tax laws to ensure that everyone pays their fair share. The criminal consequences for failure to do so are serious.”