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United States v. Ali

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

November 3, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
MELINA ALI, Respondent-Appellant.

          Argued: September 12, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Paul W. Grimm, District Judge. (8:13-cv-03398-PWG)

         ARGUED:

          Daniel Adam Bushell, BUSHELL LAW, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Appellant.

          Geoffrey John Klimas, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Michael S. Rothman, LAW OFFICE OF MIKE ROTHMAN, Rockville, Maryland, for Appellant.

          Caroline D. Ciraolo, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Diana L. Erbsen, Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Thomas J. Clark, Robert W. Metzler, Douglas C. Rennie, Tax Division, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C.; Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellee.

          Before WILKINSON, MOTZ, and DIAZ, Circuit Judges.

          DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Following an investigation of Melina Ali's income tax liability, the Internal Revenue Service issued a summons to her seeking various documents. When Ali failed to produce certain documents, the district court held her in contempt. Ali appeals, and for the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         I.

         This case involves a complex factual and procedural history, which we need only briefly summarize. In 2013, the IRS began investigating Ali's federal income tax liability. The IRS issued an administrative summons to Ali, directing her to appear and produce documents related to financial accounts and corporate records for several business entities. Ali appeared but asserted her Fifth Amendment privilege and refused to produce any documents or provide any substantive testimony.

         The Government petitioned to enforce the summons and Ali moved to quash, again asserting her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. After a show-cause hearing, the district court determined that the Government had made a prima facie case for enforcement with respect to many of the requested documents. The court initially reserved decision on the Fifth Amendment privilege with respect to "records relating to foreign bank accounts" and "corporate records for domestic or foreign entities possessed or controlled by Ali in a representative capacity, " but ultimately held the Fifth Amendment privilege did not protect those records. Accordingly, the district court ordered Ali to produce those documents ("Enforcement Order"). Ali noted an appeal to challenge the denial of her Fifth Amendment claim but withdrew that appeal before this court could consider it.

         In response to the Enforcement Order, Ali produced hundreds of pages of documents, but almost all of them related to her domestic bank accounts. With respect to her foreign bank accounts and corporate records - all clearly subject to the Enforcement Order - Ali produced only four pages of information: a one-page letter from a foreign bank dated prior to the summons stating that Ali's signature did not match the signature on file for the account in question, and three pages of correspondence showing Ali had power of attorney for one of the corporate entities. The ...


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