Plea Hearing Postponed for LA County Real Estate Developer

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A change of plea hearing for an Agoura Hills-based real estate developer facing federal bankruptcy and tax fraud charges was postponed Monday, and he may go to trial instead.

Mark Handel, 68, had initially agreed to enter a guilty plea in downtown Los Angeles to making a false statement in bankruptcy and submitting a false tax return, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

However, Handel took issue with a clause in the plea agreement and the judge set a trial date in July, prosecutors said.

If he had pleaded guilty to the charges, Handel would have forfeited about $3.54 million, which represents the proceeds of the sale of real estate in Alameda County. He had also agreed to pay to the Internal Revenue Service roughly $1.45 million in tax liabilities, which include civil fraud penalties, documents filed in Los Angeles federal court show.

According to his plea deal, in April 2015, Handel filed a bankruptcy petition in Los Angeles in which he knowingly made false statements. Under penalty of perjury, Handel stated that he had no income from 2013 until April 2015. In fact, Handel earned about $2.26 million in income from DTMM Construction Inc., his West Los Angeles-based real estate development company.

Handel caused DTMM, which, according to court documents, stands for "Don't Touch My Money," to be registered in his wife's name but allegedly used DTMM to deposit the profits from his own work as a real estate developer and to pay for his and his family's living expenses.

Handel concealed his income from his creditors by depositing it into DTMM's accounts, prosecutors contend.

Among the assets Handel hid from creditors was his interest in real estate in Livermore, his plea agreement states.

Federal prosecutors allege that in October 2016, Handel signed and filed a false federal income tax return for the tax year 2015 that failed to disclose almost $1.1 million in additional income. Handel further admitted that for the tax years 2010 to 2017, he failed to report a total of about $6.88 million of income on his federal tax returns, according to federal prosecutors.

Handel also allegedly falsely reported a net operating loss of $7.25 million on his 2017 federal income tax return as well as underreported his income on his 2018 tax return by $1.41 million and admitted to failing to pay $460,408 in additional tax.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

CNS-02-13-2023 15:17

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