DOWNTOWN — A Santa Monica attorney specializing in estate planning pleaded guilty this week to filing false tax returns in an attempt to evade paying over $1 million in taxes, federal authorities said.

Robert M.L. Baker III, 46, entered into a plea agreement Tuesday in U.S. District Court, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

He admitted that he, along with others, devised a scheme to misappropriate client fees and settlements to evade payment of tax. In the plea agreement, Baker said he utilized shell entities and trusts to hide over $900,000 in client fees and assets from the IRS, including a house located in Westwood.

Baker altered his banking practices to disguise his actions, according to the plea agreement. He used nominee bank accounts, converted client fees into cashier’s checks to pay personal expenses, altered and cashed checks, and directed clients and other law firms handling clients to mail and wire funds to nominee bank accounts.

Baker could not be reached for comment.

As part of the plea agreement, Baker is required to file amended corporate and individual tax returns correctly reporting gross receipts and deductions. Baker also agreed to make restitution in the amount of $2,108,175.

When he is sentenced, Baker faces a total maximum sentence of 26 years in prison; a three year period of supervised release; a fine of $2 million plus twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greatest, and a mandatory special assessment of $800, as well as the cost of prosecution, according to the IRS.

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