How Feds Use Snitches to Uncover Tax Fraud
CNBC Washington Reporter
The world of the financial whistleblower is a world of secrecy, clandestine meetings, and hidden identities.
It is a high risk, sometimes traumatic experience for the whistleblower—and it doesn't always pay off.
Meet a man whose lawyer will only let us identify him as "Mr. ABC."
He’s worked at some of the most prestigious firms on Wall Street. And he’s convinced they are getting away with hundreds of millions of dollars of tax fraud every year.
“I didn't know that people treated the federal Treasury as a cookie jar that they could raid," he says.
But the whistleblower, who insists on anonymity so that he can maintain a Wall Street career, has spent a dozen frustrating years trying to help the IRS unravel the complicated scheme.
And, with not much in the way of financial payoff, he has very little to show for it. "It's discouraging. It's confusing at times because often you are sometimes considered the bad person,” says Mr. ABC of his life as a whistleblower. "You're like a man without a country."
Ty Schlobohm hasn’t gotten rich, either.
The 37-year-old proprietary trader in Minnesota was pitched a plan that he thought was a Ponzi scheme. The organizers wanted him to help raise money for what they said would be a multi-billion dollar currency arbitrage fund. But Schlobohm says it didn’t seem right.
“They were 100 percent total fraud.” He went directly to the FBI.
Wearing a wire, he attended meetings in the headquarters for the Ponzi scheme—a mansion in downtown Minneapolis. He posed as a potential fundraiser for the fund, even as he tried to gather as much information as he could about how it was run.
“I was certainly nervous,” he said of his experience as an FBI informant. “I had questions about my safety. I had questions about my family's safety. I certainly wanted to know if there was organized crime involved.”
As a result of Schlobohm’s effort, the FBI was able to gather enough evidence to win a 25-year conviction for the man who organized the Ponzi scheme.
But Schlobohm hasn't been paid a penny for his role. And he says he spent so much time on it that he lost his job.
Now, he has a lawyer and is exploring whether or not he’s entitled to money recovered in back taxes as a part of an IRS whistleblower program. But he says he did it to protect his community.
“I didn't want it happening in my backyard, essentially,” he says. “Minneapolis had just at this point endured another $3.5 billion Ponzi scheme. We'd just come off Madoff, where a number of Minnesotans had been tackled by that, and I said, ‘This is on you, Ty. This is on you. Do something about it.”
Watch Eamon Javers' special series,"Bounty Hunters," all week on CNBC. On Tuesday, February 8 and Wednesday, February 9, he will report on "Squawk Box", "Squawk On The Street", and "Power Lunch. On Thursday, February 10 and Friday, February 11, he will report on "Squawk Box" and "Squawk On The Street."