A federal judge issued a bench warrant Monday for a self-proclaimed psychic from Hermosa Beach who skipped his scheduled sentencing hearing in a tax fraud case.
Sean David Morton, 58, and his wife were convicted in April of multiple counts of conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service by passing bogus checks and bonds. As a result of the scheme, the IRS erroneously issued a refund of $480,323 to the couple.
Prosecutors were expected to recommend a prison sentence of more than seven years. When Morton -- who is representing himself -- failed to appear, U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson issued the arrest warrant "forthwith."
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A sentencing date in Los Angeles federal court for Morton's 50-year-old wife has not been scheduled.
The couple could not be reached for comment, and Melissa Morton's attorney declined to make a statement.
The charges stem from the couple's participation in a "redemption" scheme, which is used across the nation by tax defiers and so-called "sovereign citizens," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Proponents of the scheme falsely claim that the United States government controls bank accounts -- often referred to as "U.S. Treasury Direct Accounts" -- for U.S. citizens that can be accessed by submitting paperwork with state and federal authorities.
Those promoting the scam frequently cite various discredited legal theories and produce fraudulent financial documents that appear to be legitimate, prosecutors said.
"These defendants orchestrated a scheme that used bogus 'legal' filings that sought to abuse the tax system and defraud the IRS out of millions of dollars,'' acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown said after the Mortons' four- day trial. "These fraudulent schemes are designed to do only one thing -- victimize others for profit."
The Mortons filed income tax returns with the IRS that falsely claimed they had income from various banks. As part of the scheme, they falsely reported large withholdings and claimed they were owed refunds from the IRS.
On the same day the $480,323 refund was deposited into their joint bank account, the couple took immediate steps to conceal the money, which included opening two new accounts, transferring over $360,000 and withdrawing $70,000 in cash.
When the IRS took steps to collect the erroneous refund, the Mortons began a campaign to thwart the government's efforts. Specifically, when the IRS placed a levy on the couple's joint bank account, the couple began submitting a shower of bogus documents, instructing the agency to draw upon funds with the U.S. Treasury to satisfy their debt, according to federal prosecutors.
The Mortons also sold the bond scheme to others who were in debt to governmental organizations, such as the IRS and the state of California, and private bank institutions for mortgage or credit card debt, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The Mortons charged their clients thousands of dollars to prepare and file useless documents declaring their clients' "strawman" status, and to prepare and send false bonds to the government or banks which purported to pay off the clients' debt, prosecutors said.
In a memorandum filed with the court, they recommended that Sean Morton be sentenced to 87 months behind bars and ordered to pay $480,323 in restitution to the IRS.
The defendant filed a motion with the court a few weeks ago asking the judge to delay his sentencing on the grounds he had not received all the evidence in the case. Prosecutors objected, calling the effort "nothing more than an attempt to delay" the proceeding, and the judge determined that the government had shown that it had in fact provided Morton with the evidence.
Morton advertises himself as the host of "Strange Universe Radio" on the internet and claims that his psychic skills have received "worldwide recognition."