A medical marijuana dispensary owner was swindled out of cash thanks to an IRS agent in Seattle. The IRS agent, Paul Hurley, told the victim, Ryan Kunkel, that if he paid him $20,000 to be used towards his student loan debt, that he would give him a smooth and easy audit, thereby saving him money.
The crime first took place in 2014 where Hurley began an audit on Have a Heart Compassion Care, which was owned by Kunkel. Hurley told Kunkel that Kunkel owed roughly $290,000 to the U.S. government and that Hurley actually already brought that number down from $1,000,000.
Hurley then told Kunkel that he should pay him a sum of $20,000 for the work he did to bring that number down and his leniency in the entire process. Kunkel cooperated and gave him the money, but then quickly realized that he was likely scammed and he contacted a lawyer and police immediately.
The police and the U.S. Attorney General asked Kunkel to help them catch Hurley in the act, so they set up a sting operation. The operation included Kunkel meeting with Hurley at Starbucks to exchange money. Additional exchanges from the initial $20,000 took place twice. After the second exchange of money, Hurley was arrested and he also resigned from the IRS.
Hurley wrote an apology letter to express his remorse for the crime he committed. In fact, his letter included statements such as: “I have let everyone down in the Seattle office…” and “(I) have brought a cloud of shame to the Internal Revenue Service.” Hurley does have attorneys working on his side and his attorneys are fighting to say that the government pressured him to receive the money and that he is not guilty of bribery.
Unfortunately, there is no knowledge as to whether an agreement between Hurley and Kunkel took place before or after the audit has been submitted to the IRS, which muddles things a bit. Hurley faces a charge of bribery in the case and will face the jury to attempt to prove his innocence. If Hurley is convicted of the crime, he can face up to 15 years in prison and a hefty fine of $250,000.
Though there have been other student loan scams, this is the first time a government official was charged in such an ordeal.