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U.S. sanctions lawyer accused of selling phony tax breaks to NFL players

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Chicago-area lawyer accused of selling phony tax breaks worth a combined $16 million to some American football players and others has been permanently barred from preparing taxes, the U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday.

Gary Stern of Riverwoods, Illinois, agreed to a permanent injunction without admitting any wrongdoing, according a statement from the department.

Stern, a lawyer with Stahl Cowen Crowley Addis LLC in Chicago, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Stern will be leaving Stahl Cowen on November 18, said Ronald Damashek, a lawyer at the firm. Damashek said Stern's alleged misconduct occurred before he joined Stahl Cowen.

The Justice Department said Stern's clients included current and former National Football League players Kyle Orton, Jevon Kearse, Ray Lewis and several others.

In a November 1 complaint, prosecutors accused Stern of funneling certain alternative fuel tax credits to his clients.

"Stern created a web of partnerships, companies and other entities to serve as a conduit for sham transactions," the Justice Department said.

Created by Congress in 2005 to encourage biomass fuel production, the credits can be legally distributed to individuals in some instances. But starting in the early 2000s, Stern distributed the credits to customers to help them dodge taxes, the Justice Department said.

Some of Stern's football player clients have had to pay the U.S. Internal Revenue Service penalties and interest related to the credits, said Daniel Konicek, a lawyer with Konicek & Dillon P.C., who is representing Orton.

An attorney for Lewis and Kearse could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

Stern faces a lawsuit currently pending in a Chicago court brought by Orton and other football player clients who are seeking damages, Konicek said.

(Reporting by Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Bill Trott)

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