Security Boosted in Advance of Felon’s Testimony

Posted April 11, 2007 at 6:22pm

The Senate Finance Committee has beefed up security and moved its hearing today on tax fraud and identity theft to accommodate an appearance by an imprisoned felon.

Evangelos Dimitrios Soukas, who currently is serving a sentence of more than eight years in federal prison for participating in tax fraud and identity theft schemes, is classified as a medium risk by the authorities.

His appearance at the Finance panel’s 10 a.m. hearing was green-lighted late Tuesday by a federal court, after the Justice Department had sought to bar Soukas from testifying, citing the possibility that his televised appearance could boost his status among inmates. Justice officials argued that an inmate’s enhanced status makes life behind bars more dangerous for everyone involved.

“He will be in the custody of a federal marshal,” said a spokeswoman for Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.). The hearing, originally scheduled for Room 215 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, is now set for Dirksen G-50 “as an added security measure because it is easier to get [him] in and out of the building,” the spokeswoman said.

Soukas also will be seated at a separate table from the other witnesses testifying before the committee. The other witnesses are Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Mark Everson; Eileen O’Connor, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s tax division; Michael Phillips, deputy inspector general for audit with the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration; and James White, director of tax issues with the Government Accountability Office.

Today’s hearing will focus on how well enforcement agencies are catching perpetrators of tax fraud and identity theft. Finance Committee leaders invited Soukas because they believe he will provide insight to how regulators can improve their security measures, and went to some length to ensure his attendance at the hearing.

Baucus dismissed Justice’s reasoning for seeking to block his appearance.

“We have called this witness to help taxpayers understand how criminals can prey on them at tax time,” Baucus said in a statement. “The Justice Department didn’t articulate any legitimate reason for standing in the way of Congress’ oversight responsibilities. It appears they just wanted to stop the Finance Committee from holding a hearing as we see fit.”