Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Attorney Who Owned Mobile Phone Business Suspended for Tax Fraud

The Ohio Supreme Court today suspended a Central Ohio attorney who spent a year in prison for filing a false federal tax return.

The Supreme Court unanimously voted to suspend Scott Atway of Powell for two years, and a majority of the court gave him credit for the more than 18 months he served under an interim suspension imposed by the Court in 2018. Atway, who in addition to being a self-employed attorney, formerly owned multiple Verizon Wireless stores in Central Ohio.

Atway admitted to not accurately reporting the income from the stores to his tax preparer for tax years 2010 to 2012. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to one count of willfully filing a false tax return. The Board of Professional Conduct found Atway’s illegal conduct adversely reflected on his honesty and trustworthiness. In a per curiam opinion, the Court stated it agreed with the board’s assessment.

Justices Judith L. French, R. Patrick DeWine, Michael P. Donnelly, and Melody J. Stewart voted to adopt the board’s recommendation of a two-year suspension with credit for time served. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and Patrick F. Fischer stated they would not have granted credit for time served.

Attorney Made Lavish Purchases
Atway pleaded guilty to a bill of information for filing a false tax return for the 2010 tax year and acknowledged his actions resulted in the loss of $250,000 to $1.5 million in federal income-tax revenue. Atway also acknowledged that, during the three years, he did not accurately report his income from the phone stores, and that he purchased five “high-end” vehicles and bought a luxury home to which he made extensive improvements.

He also failed to file a tax return for 2013, even though he generated income from his law practice, the stores, and a real-estate holding company.

Atway was sentenced in October 2018 to one year in federal prison and one year of supervised release. The Court imposed an interim suspension based on the conviction , and Atway has been under that suspension since then. He also was ordered to pay $605,000 in fines and restitution. He fully paid that restitution to the federal government in November 2019.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed a complaint against Atway with the board in May 2019 based on the felony conviction.

Board Considers Sanction
When considering a sanction to recommend for Atway, the board considered aggravating circumstances that could increase the penalty and mitigating factors that could lead to a lesser sanction.

The board found Atway acted with a dishonest or selfish motive. It also found he had no prior disciplinary record, made good-faith restitution, cooperated with the disciplinary process, submitted evidence of his good character and reputation, and suffered other penalties as a result of his conduct.

The board also noted the misconduct was not related to Atway’s law practice and no clients were harmed by his conduct. After reviewing sanctions imposed on other attorneys for filling false tax returns, the board concluded that the two-year suspension with credit for time served was appropriate, and a majority of the Court agreed.

2019-1741. Disciplinary Counsel v. Atway, Slip Opinion No. 2020-Ohio-2794.

Please note: Opinion summaries are prepared by the Office of Public Information for the general public and news media. Opinion summaries are not prepared for every opinion, but only for noteworthy cases. Opinion summaries are not to be considered as official headnotes or syllabi of court opinions. The full text of this and other court opinions are available online.

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