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Long IslandCrime

IRS attorney pleads not guilty to drug charge

Jack Vitayanon leaves federal court in Central Islip

Jack Vitayanon leaves federal court in Central Islip on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

A Washington, D.C.-based attorney for the Internal Revenue Service pleaded not guilty Wednesday in federal court in Central Islip to an indictment charging him with conspiracy and distribution of methamphetamine on Long Island.

Jack Vitayanon, 41, an attorney with the IRS’s Office of Professional Responsibility, had been held without bail after his Feb. 1 arrest by federal agents in Washington, D.C. and was transported to Long Island for arraignment, according to officials.

U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert released Vitayanon on $500,000 bond, pending future hearings.

If convicted, Vitayanon faces at least 151 months in prison under suggested sentencing guidelines, Eastern District Assistant United States Attorney Charles Rose said in court.

Vitayanon was involved in the conspiracy to distribute 500 grams of methamphetamine with others in Arizona and on Long Island, according to officials.

An IRS spokesperson could not be reached Wednesday.

But when Vitayanon was arrested, an agency spokesperson had said the organization didn’t comment on personnel matters but would take actions against inappropriate conduct by employees, “up to and including dismissal.”

Vitayanon, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia Law School, had clerked for a federal judge in Florida. He was a former associate of the white-shoe law firm Debevoise & Plimpton in Manhattan, and is an adjunct professor of tax law at Georgetown University Law School, according to that school’s website.

Vitayanon’s attorney, Bradley Simon of Manhattan, said after court his client “is going to defend his case vigorously.”

Rose declined to comment.

When Vitayanon was arrested Feb. 1, Eastern District U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said in a statement: The “defendant — a federal attorney working for the IRS’s Office of Professional Responsibility — broke bad and supplemented his income by selling distribution quantities of methamphetamine” — making a reference to the television show “Breaking Bad.” That show was about a fictitious high school teacher involved in the manufacture and distribution of the drug.

Court papers unsealed Wednesday also showed that an Arizona man, Robert Watson, was arrested in Tucson at the same time as Vitayanon and charged with being part of the conspiracy. Watson was held without bond and ordered transported to Long Island for arraignment at a future date. Watson’s attorney could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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