Forbes had a piece last year that figured Igor Olenicoff was worth $1.6 billion and deserved a slot on The Forbes 400. Olenicoff pooh-poohed the estimate, claiming that he didn't own Newport Beach-based Olen Properties Corp., which has 11,000 residential units and 6.25 million square feet of commercial space in California, Nevada, Florida and Chicago. He said Olen was actually owned by some offshore entities in which he had no stake. Well, it turns out that the feds are siding with Forbes. They charged him with one felony count of willful filing of a false tax return after he denied having any foreign "ownership" and "control" over accounts in England, Switzerland, the Bahamas and Liechtenstein. Olenicoff's attorney told Forbes in its new edition that the developer will be plead guilty to that count under a deal with prosecutors (he faces a maximum of six months in the slammer). He is also about to settle IRS claims for tens of millions in taxes and civil fraud penalties. Here's a snippet from the 2006 piece by Janet Novack and Tatiana Serafin:
Shortly after Igor M. Olenicoff was born near Moscow in 1942, his Tsarist-connected family fled Communist Russia for Allied-occupied Iran. There he attended an English-language school run by missionaries. When he was 15, Olenicoff says, his parents, his brother and he arrived in New York with $800 and four suitcases. They were robbed and headed west. At the University of Southern California, Olenicoff earned degrees in corporate finance and mathematics plus an M.B.A. He worked as a consultant and corporate executive before launching a real estate development business in 1973.
In U.S. Tax Court filings the IRS claims Olenicoff is the "ultimate owner" not just of Olen Properties but also of Sovereign Bancorp Ltd., a Bahamian company formed in 1990. He used Sovereign, the IRS asserts, to evade taxes and hide assets from the IRS and creditors. In an April court filing the government said there's an ongoing criminal tax investigation of Olenicoff involving "substantially similar issues." The IRS has sent Olenicoff a bill for $44 million in back taxes and $33 million in civil fraud penalties based on Sovereign's income for 1996 and 1997. That may be, if the IRS is behaving the way it usually does, a somewhat inflated calculation.