A federal judge Friday rejected a plea for probation from a New York businessman who admitted concealing $8 million in secret Swiss bank accounts, imposing instead a three-month prison term in the high-profile tax evasion case.
U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn said toy salesman Jeffrey Chernick deserves credit for his cooperation in the broad U.S. probe of Swiss bank UBS AG. But he said allowing Chernick to avoid prison for filing a false tax return "sends the wrong message" in a case that has made international headlines.
"If the court issues a slap on the wrist, to me the notoriety becomes negative," Cohn said. "It essentially informs the public that you can cheat on your income taxes and get away with probation."
Chernick, 70, had faced between 18 months and two years under federal sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors asked Cohn for a nine-month prison term, noting that Chernick's disclosures led directly to the indictments of a Swiss banker and Swiss lawyer on conspiracy charges as well as charges against other UBS clients in the U.S.