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Allen J. Gross, a partner at Los Angeles-based Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, pleaded not guilty on Monday to five felony counts of failing to file his state income tax returns from 2003 through 2007. Gross was arrested last week at his home in West Los Angeles. According to the Los Angeles County, Calif., district attorney’s office, Gross made $2.3 million in income during the period in question. The district attorney’s office is seeking $850,000 in back taxes, penalties, interest and costs. If convicted, Gross faces more than five years in prison. David Berton, the deputy district attorney on the case, said that the California Franchise Tax Board referred the matter to his office because “they believe there’s evidence that shows there is intent to evade.” While declining to specify the evidence, he said that, “generally, the Franchise Tax Board looks to cases in which there’s a threshold dollar amount. Also, it’s over a period of time — a course of years — that there is a similar course of conduct.” Gross’s lawyer, Anthony Salerno of Los Angeles criminal defense firm Salerno & Associates, described the problem as a “misunderstanding as to what Allen’s obligations were.” “There was no fraudulent type of intent going on,” he said. “The best way to characterize it is it was a technical violation of tax reporting rules.” Salerno said that prosecutors have been “unnecessarily heavy-handed” in the case. “This could have been resolved in a civil manner, but they acted in a hard-core way,” he said. As of Tuesday, Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp had removed Gross’s name from the firm’s Web site. In an e-mailed statement, Thomas Lambert, managing partner at Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, said: “The firm’s management was unaware of this apparent Franchise Tax Board criminal investigation or of Allen’s arrest until Monday morning. Out of respect for the legal process, we have no further comment at this time.” He added that Gross is a nonequity partner at the firm, where he practices in the labor and employment department. Gross, 61, specializes in representing management in labor and employment cases and in collective bargaining negotiations, according to court records. Recent clients include Discovery Benefits Inc., a benefits administration firm in Fargo, N.D.; Gate Safe Inc., a company in College Park, Ga., that was formed after Sept. 11, 2001, to inspect airline catering; and Brentwood, Tenn.-based Prison Health Services Inc., which serves 160 jails and prisons across the country. Gross, who was admitted to practice in California in 1989, has been a guest speaker at several meetings for the American Bar Association’s section of labor & employment law. He received his law degree at Georgetown University Law Center in 1974. Gross is scheduled to appear on March 19 at Los Angeles County, Calif., Superior Court to set a date for a preliminary hearing, during which a judge will determine whether the charges against him should go forward.

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