In California, I seem to recall, some unlucky (and probably bullying) soul went to jail under the three strikes law for stealing a slice of pizza.
Now, a member of the elite class can file a false tax return to defraud the government (and all honest taxpayers) by hiding $4.9 million in assets in a Swiss bank and not filing tax returns and information reports as required and what does he get ? Possible maximum sentence under the sentencing guidelines was 20 years. He got: 24 months probation. the taxes due. a $940 thousand civil penalty. (The penalty charge is only 50% of the assets he had hidden in one year--2004, even though it ostensibly could be charged for more years.) And a $10,000 fine.
This guy was clearly engaging in intentional tax evasion. When the UBS case came to light, he moved a million of his stash to Lichtenstein, hoping to stay ahead of the law. (Lichtenstein was even better at banking secrecy than the Swiss.) Then he made regular trips back to his Swiss bank to take out bunches of travelers' checks, trying to empty out his account.
The case is United States v. Vogliano, S.D.N.Y., No. 10 Cr. 327 (sentencing 4/21/11). You can read the plea agreement here Download Vogliano SDNY No. 10-cr-327. 122210 plea agreement.
Will the lack of jail time make all those scofflaws who had gotten worried about their tax information coming to light in the UBS case decide it isn't worth worrying about? Probation, after all, is just checking in with someone to show you're still around. They're probably living in their multimillion dollar townhouse, so what's not to like. These days, the "greed is good" crowd doesn't seem to have much shame. He'll end up paying about a fifth of the assets he had socked away, though. That's something.