A Guilty Plea Deal does not Relieve You of Your Tax Liabilities

A critical reminder for individuals involved in any legal or financial proceedings.

Background of the Case

In 2013, Salvatore Groppo and 18 other co-defendants were indicted for operating a website offering illegal sports gambling services within the United States, though headquartered in Peru. By 2014, Groppo had pleaded guilty under a plea agreement, admitting his role as a sub-bookie in the organization. As part of his plea deal, Groppo was sentenced to five years’ probation, 200 hours of community service, a $3,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment.

Despite the plea agreement, Groppo understood that it could not bind other federal, state, or local prosecuting, administrative, or regulatory authorities. This clause became pivotal later on. Three years into his probation, the court granted early termination due to Groppo’s good conduct. However, the legal and financial consequences of his actions continued to haunt him.

The IRS Assessment

Following his conviction, the IRS assessed a potential tax liability exceeding $100,000 in excise taxes and penalties on Groppo’s bookmaking activities. Excise taxes, which are imposed on certain goods, services, and activities like sports wagering, are applicable regardless of state legality.

Groppo’s lawyer advised him to settle with the IRS for approximately $40,000 to avoid the full liability. Forced to use his daughter’s college fund, Groppo paid the amount, but there is no record indicating that the IRS settled the matter. In an offer-in-compromise, the payment is non-refundable, and it seems Groppo’s attempt to settle the liability was unsuccessful.

Appeal and Court Decision

Groppo appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking to expunge his felony conviction. He argued that his ongoing punishment, including the IRS’s hefty tax assessment, was disproportionate to the terms of his plea deal and distorted the judgment of his conviction.

Expungement, distinct from vacating a conviction, seeks to destroy or seal records of a conviction but does not alter the legality or assert innocence. Courts typically limit expungement to cases of unlawful arrest, government misconduct, or clerical errors.

The court denied Groppo’s expungement request, stating that the IRS’s enforcement action, though burdensome, was a natural and intended consequence of his conviction. The plea agreement explicitly did not bind the IRS or other regulatory authorities. Therefore, Groppo’s tax liability remained intact.

Key Takeaways

This case highlights several important lessons for individuals facing legal issues:

  1. Tax Liabilities Persist: A plea agreement with the Department of Justice does not protect against subsequent actions by the IRS or other regulatory bodies. Tax liabilities and penalties can still be assessed based on the underlying criminal conduct.
  2. Understand Plea Agreements: Always be aware of the limitations of plea agreements. They typically do not bind other authorities, leaving you vulnerable to additional legal and financial consequences.
  3. Seek Comprehensive Legal Advice: When involved in criminal activities that have potential tax implications, it is crucial to consult with both criminal defense and tax attorneys to fully understand the ramifications.
  4. Record Keeping and Compliance: Maintain thorough records and be prepared for potential financial repercussions, even after resolving the primary legal issue. Compliance with tax regulations is crucial to avoid further penalties.


The Groppo case is a stark reminder that resolving criminal charges does not necessarily resolve related tax liabilities. The IRS has the authority to impose taxes and penalties based on criminal activities, regardless of plea agreements. At IRSProb.com, we are dedicated to helping you navigate complex tax issues and ensuring that you understand the full scope of your financial obligations. If you have any questions or need assistance, please reach out to us.

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