LaTona’s Tax Case Could Help Parlato

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By: Tony Farina

Joseph LaTona, the lawyer from Niagara Falls who won a landmark tax case before the U. S. Supreme Court that could help a Cataract City businessman and newspaper publisher currently facing federal tax charges, will be honored next month in New York City by the New York State Bar Association.

LaTona will receive the Charles F. Crimi Memorial Award which recognizes the professional career of a defense lawyer in private practice that emobdies the highest ideals of the NYSBA’s Criminal Justice Section.

“It is indeed a high honor, and it puts me in the company of some of this area’s very best attorneys of the past and present who have received this very prestigious award,” said LaTona.  “I am humbled to be named this year’s recipient and will travel to New York’s Hilton Hotel on Jan. 16 with my children and grandchildren to receive the award.”

Word of LaTona’s selection comes shortly after U. S. Judge William Skretny sided with LaTona last month, sparing his client more jail time, in a landmark tax case that LaTona took all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court and won in a 7 – 2 decision last March with one justice saying it put too much power in the hands of prosecutors who could not be relied on for the use of discretion.  It is a case that attorneys for newspaper publisher Frank Parlato and codefendant Chitra Selvaraj hope to use in their defense against pending federal tax charges in a motion based on the decision and scheduled for argument Dec. 19 before federal Magistrate Judge Jeremiah McCarthy.

Local federal prosecutors had attempted to put LaTona’s ailing 72-year-old client, Carlo Marinello, back in prison on his federal tax conviction despite the Supreme Court decision, and LaTona was successful in arguing before Judge Skretny that the government’s efforts amounted to an abuse of power.   Skretny sentenced Marinello to time served, the 21 months he already spent in prison on his felony conviction in 2014 of tax evasion and obstructing the IRS.

LaTona was successful in winning Supreme Court review of Marinello’s conviction even after three appeals court upheld the conviction and only one court agreed with the defense attorney’s arguments.

LaTona said the issue was whether the government should have had a proceeding in place against Marinello before bringing charges, and while three appeals courts said it was not necessary, the fourth court and the Supreme Court agreed with LaTona.

“Thank God we have an independent judiciary,” said LaTona, “and the Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for Carlo and all taxpayers in the country.”

LaTona added that recent Supreme Court decisions have helped dampen efforts by the Department of Justice to pursue cases beyond the intent of Congress.

Attorney Joel Daniels, who represents Parlato’s codefendant, Chitra Selvaraj, said he and Parlato’s attorney, Paul Cambria, have filed a motion to drop conspiracy charges in the case based on the Supreme Court’s decision in Marinello. Arguments are scheduled for Dec. 19th.

“Marinello is a high roadblock for the government trying to try and make an end run [in this case],” said Daniels.

Federal prosecutors in Buffalo earlier this year dropped charges that Parlato stole $1 million from the Seagram’s heirs linked to the NXIVM cult after Parlato was credited with helping prosecutors in New York indict the leader of the cult, Keith Raniere, for allegedly forcing women to engage in sexual activity with him as a condition of membership in the secret society.

It was Parlato’s vigorous reporting through news outlets across the country that was widely credited with pushing the government to investigate and ultimately charge Raniere and Seagrams heiress Clare Bronfman in the NXIVM case.

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