For the second time in two weeks, a Columbia lawyer has been charged with a federal crime.
According to documents on file in U.S. District Court in Columbia, attorney Joenathan (pronounced “Joe Nathan”) Chaplin made a false statement to a U.S. Department of Treasury agent in a matter concerning government reporting requirements when large fees are paid to lawyers.
The charge is a felony. Chaplin, a criminal defense attorney, could get up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 if and when found guilty.
The case against Chaplin was made by agents at the IRS Criminal Investigation Division.
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Last week, Columbia attorney Ed Givens pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony in federal court in Charleston before U.S. Judge David Norton.
Federal documents in that scheme charge Givens with being part of a kickback scheme involving a Homecoming event at S.C. State University and then lying to federal agents when they asked him about the matter.
The FBI had wiretapped conversations Givens was involved in, so Givens’ denials were for naught, according to statements made last week in federal court by assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Wicker.
In Chaplin’s case, the available documents do not given specifics of the crime he is charged with.
However, the charging document — called an “information” — says that Chaplin was unaware he had to file Form 8300. That form is part of a section of the law that requires businesses including attorneys to report any payment from a client or customer of $10,000 in cash or more to the Treasury Department. The government must be told the name of the payer and the date of the transaction.
Chaplin is represented by Columbia attorney I.S. Leevy-Johnson. He could not be reached for comment.
Last year, Chaplin was reprimanded by the S.C. Supreme Court for violating rules governing professional conduct and discipline enforcement.
Chaplin admitted to not promptly representing a client, charging an unreasonable fee and failing to respond to a disciplinary authority, according to a court document.