NEW YORK (AP) — A former tax examiner who once complained that he worked with "fools" at the Internal Revenue Service was sentenced to three months' probation on Tuesday for angling for a higher-paying job with a bank that he was leading an audit against.
Dennis Lerner, appearing in federal court in Manhattan, apologized to the government and told U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan he now knows he "used very poor judgment."
"You certainly did," Keenan responded, later calling the defendant's decisions "dopey."
Prosecutors had asked Keenan to sentence Lerner within federal guidelines calling for four to 10 months behind bars. The judge instead opted to give Lerner probation, along with a $10,000 fine and 150 hours of community service.
Lerner, 60, of Edgewater, N.J., had pleaded guilty to violating criminal conflict of interest laws and other charges in March.
Prosecutors alleged that while conducting an audit of Commerzbank AG, he interviewed for a job with the German institution without the knowledge of his bosses at the IRS. He continued to lead negotiations that resulted in a $210 million settlement related to about $1 billion in unreported income, authorities said.
While the settlement was pending in 2011, Lerner resigned from the IRS and went to work for Commerzbank as its tax director. Authorities said that in his new position he continued to have improper contact with IRS employees involved in the audit of the bank.
According to a criminal complaint, investigators examined personal emails written by Lerner in which he repeatedly griped about his IRS job.
"I needed to see my idiot manager" and "I get paid next to nothing and work with fools," he wrote in one email. In another, he said, "My day is empty and without any purpose."
An email from July 2011 read, "Meeting with CEO went good" — what prosecutors say was a reference to a Commerzbank executive. The bank offered him a job the following month.
A Commerzbank spokeswoman declined comment on Tuesday.