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Defense: Case hinges on tax cheat – Prosecutors: Williams and partner got what they wanted

The Orleans DA and his business partner are accused of tax fraud. The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

NEW ORLEANS — Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for Nicole Burdett and District Attorney Jason Williams agree on one thing: they both say Henry Timothy is a tax cheat.

Timothy is the tax preparer who filed fraudulent returns for Burdett and Williams’ law firm. Now, attorneys will argue whether Williams and Burdett intentionally conspired to commit tax fraud when they asked Timothy to do their taxes.

Tuesday, both sides gave their opening statements in front of a jury of nine women and three men.

Burdett’s attorney, Mike Magner, says his client is guilty of nothing but trusting someone who claimed to be a CPA and wasn’t. He showed the court a copy of Timothy’s letterhead, in which he falsely describes himself as a CPA.

He also showed Timothy’s LinkedIn page, in which he claimed to have a Masters of Business Administration from the University of New Orleans and an undergraduate degree in accounting from UNO. Magner said Timothy has neither of those degrees.

Williams’ defense attorney, Lisa Wayne, said that Williams kept documents long after he was required to by the IRS.

She said the jury will hear about how Burdett and Williams would 'hand over every receipt, every business item, every CC charge, a ledger, a profit and loss statement, every year.'

“It’s about misplaced trust by two individuals who did not know any better. This is about relationships,” said Wayne.

They say Williams and Burdett chose Timothy as a tax preparer because he was 'a family friend of the Burdetts’, and he prepares taxes for roughly 1500 people every year.

But the government argues that Burdette and Williams chose Timothy because they knew he was a tax cheat and would falsify the returns without asking questions.

The government says when Timothy was hired, Williams owed about 90 thousand dollars in taxes.

“Mr. Timothy did their bidding, gave them no pushback," Assistant US Attorney Kelly Uebinger said in opening statements.

She said the pair schemed to inflate their expenses, even going back and forth with Timothy to determine how to best lower their tax liability on their Schedule C form. This saved the pair thousands of dollars in taxes.

“There’s no question in this case that Mr. Timothy decided the ‘how’ of how it was done. He decided which personal expense he was going to plug into schedule C. But the ‘why’, why was it done? It was done because it financially benefited them,” Uebinger said.

Both sides appeared to be prepping the jury for tax and financial evidence that could get complicated.

Timothy is expected to testify Wednesday.

RELATED: Orleans DA Jason Williams says he's confident as trial begins

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