U.S. v. MAGA
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
DOMINIC JOSEPH MAGA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.
United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.
Filed April 4, 2012.
Before: COOK, WHITE, and DONALD, Circuit Judges
Defendant-appellant Dominic Joseph Maga appeals a jury verdict finding him guilty of failing to file income tax returns. He contends that the trial proceedings violated his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation, that the district court erroneously denied his motion for acquittal, and that the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion for a new trial. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Several years ago, Maga obtained copies of his "individual master file" transcript (also known as an "IMF transcript" or a "specific transcript"), a technical record that the IRS uses to keep a running account of all of a person's tax events—e.g., penalties assessed, refunds owed, refunds issued, and interest. He noticed that the code "MFR-01" appeared on each of his IMF transcripts. Unsure of the meaning of this code, he wrote to the IRS about it. An IRS disclosure officer replied via letter that the code meant "1040 not required." Based on this letter and his reading of IRS manuals on the Internet, Maga claims he interpreted the code to mean that he was "not required" to file any returns.
The jury returned a guilty verdict for the five counts of failure to file a tax return and acquitted Maga of the four counts of tax evasion.
In short, Maga drew from public sources to create an interpretation that no one shares—or in the prosecution's words, a "secret" interpretation. The mere fact that Maga used public sources in this interpretive process does not shield the resulting misinterpretation from skepticism. The district court did not plainly err in refusing to grant a new trial on this ground.