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Local News

Santa Barbara Attorney Darryl Genis Pleads Guilty to Failing to File Tax Returns With IRS

As part of plea agreement, Genis will pay $680,000 for unpaid taxes over an eight-year period, including three years when he filed no tax returns for his law practice

Defense attorney Darryl Genis, right, questions CHP Officer Scott Williams during the 2015 DUI trial of Benjamin Bettencourt. Genis pleaded guilty to failing to file tax returns for his law practice on Monday. Click to view larger
Defense attorney Darryl Genis, right, questions CHP Officer Scott Williams during the 2015 DUI trial of Benjamin Bettencourt. Genis pleaded guilty to failing to file tax returns for his law practice on Monday.  (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

Santa Barbara attorney Darryl Genis has pleaded guilty to failing to file tax returns for three years, and as a result of his plea agreement, will pay $679,958 in restitution to the IRS, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Genis, a well-known attorney who specializes in DUI case defense, made the plea Monday, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker.

He pleaded guilty to willfully failing to file tax returns for his law practice for 2009, 2010 and 2011, which are federal misdemeanors, and admitted that he “knowingly and intentionally chose to not file his tax returns despite his legal obligation to do so,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Genis also reportedly admitted not paying the full amount of taxes he owed for the years 2005 through 2012.

The almost $680,000 in restitution represents unpaid taxes for that 8-year period, and Genis also agreed to the IRS’s civil penalties for that period, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 13, 2017, and Genis could face fines and a maximum of three years in prison.

“As an attorney, this defendant had a heightened responsibility to follow the law, and instead he cheated the IRS and every law-abiding taxpayer in the country,” Decker said in a statement.

“Today’s guilty pleas will deprive the defendant of the fruits of his crimes, and send a message that everyone must pay their taxes.”

Whether this criminal case will affect Genis’ license to practice law is a matter for The State Bar of California.

“I can tell you that when a lawyer is convicted of a crime, the State Bar Court will then initiate proceedings to determine what if any discipline is warranted,” said Laura Ernde, managing director of communications for State Bar.

This case is not yet on the State Bar Court docket, she said in an email.

“The final discipline is not generally imposed until after the conviction becomes final. In some cases, the State Bar Court can order an interim suspension earlier but I can’t say whether that would happen in this case.”

Last year, Genis was suspended for 30 days related to accusations of misconduct, a ruling that came after he appealed an ordered 90-day suspension from the State Bar.

Before that case, he had no disciplinary action from the State Bar since he started practicing law in 1980, though he had been accused of contempt of court by local judges.

He successfully appealed a 2013 case, which found him in contempt for calling opposing counsel a “little girl” in court, and charges were dropped in a 2014 contempt case after a judge said there was insufficient evidence of him violating court rules.

State Bar documents have described Genis as an “effective but controversial criminal defense attorney.”

He has handled many high-profile DUI cases in Santa Barbara County, including the Tony Denunzio case, the Raymond Morua case and, more recently, the Benjamin Lee Bettencourt case.

Bettencourt, who in May 2015 was convicted of driving while drunk and causing a crash that killed a passenger in his vehicle, hired a new attorney, Steve Balash, who is seeking another trial.

As Noozhawk previously reported, Balash claimed his client’s previous attorney, Genis, was ineffective due to “abruptly resting the defense case without producing readily available evidence,” and advising Bettencourt not to testify on his own behalf.

Genis could not be reached for comment.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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