OAKLAND -- A Pleasanton attorney pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of making a false statement after reportedly lying to the Internal Revenue Service about property deeds belonging to a deceased client, the United States Attorney said.
William A. Hirst, 72, was charged Dec. 6 with four counts of making a false statement but pleaded guilty Thursday to only one, United States Attorney Melinda Haag said.
The case goes back to February 2004, when Hirst, who was assisting the client with his estate tax planning, drafted 11 deeds that gave fractional interest in eleven parcels of the man's property to his daughter, Haag said. Hirst acted as the notary public for the client's signature on all 11 deeds.
The client died on Feb. 27, 2004.
In March of that year, eight of the 11 deeds signed by the property owner were recorded with the county recorder, while the remaining three went missing, Haag said.
On Feb. 2, 2005., the estate's accountant filed the man's federal estate tax return with the IRS, Haag said. The return did not list the interests bestowed to the man's daughter that were documented in the three missing deeds.
According to Haag, Hirst then fabricated the absent deeds, unlawfully signed his deceased client's name, and had the documents recorded April 4, 2005.
During an estate tax return audit, Hirst was summoned to produce a notary log to reflect the execution of the 11 deeds, Haag said. Hirst told IRS estate tax attorneys when questioned about the deeds that he had found the three lost deeds in a file and recorded them 14 months later, denying that he had redrafted the deeds and signed the client's name posthumously.
According to the United States Attorney's indictment, Hirst said he could not remember why the three deeds were filed nearly 14 months after his client's death and the filing of the other eight deeds. He said the signature was not in his handwriting, and that he had discovered they had not been filed only when he encountered them in a file in April of 2005.
Hirst is scheduled to appear before United States District Court Judge Samuel Conti, on April 19, 2013, for sentencing. The maximum penalty for making a false statement is five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.