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BUTT-HEAD LAWYER A TAX CHEAT

January 9, 2007

news2January 9, 2007 — A 70-year-old tobacco-industry lawyer will see $1.5 million go up in smoke for admittedly not paying a cent in taxes since at least 1998.

Francis Decker Jr. must pay up – and serve 45 days in jail – for failing to report $4.5 million in gross income over the past eight years, Manhattan prosecutors said yesterday.

In fact, he might not have filed any tax returns – or paid any taxes – for at least 25 years, which is as far back as investigators looked.

“If you don’t file any tax returns at all, you can fly under the radar,” Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said in announcing the plea. Decker was eventually caught by state tax computers that have automated programs.

The lack of a tax burden made for a good life. Decker and his wife owned a $2 million house on Amity Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. They also owned a $2 million Hamptons getaway in Quogue. Both homes were mortgage free, prosecutors said.

Decker is a former partner at the Latham and Watkins law firm in Midtown, where he specialized in defending tobacco companies against lawsuits.

“Mr. Decker has accepted responsibility for his actions, and is very sorry,” said his lawyer, Jonathan Davidoff.

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