The seizure of assets such as super-yachts and artwork owned by Russian oligarchs continues to make headlines. But Russian billionaires aren’t the only wealthy folks in trouble with the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
According to Bloomberg news, the daughter of disgraced financier Jack Fisher had her Holsteiner gelding Levland (barn name Lex), a show hunter, seized by the IRS after Fisher was charged in an alleged billion-dollar tax scam which netted him $60m.
His daughter, Christina, an equestrian based in North Carolina, got a terrifying call notifying her that Lex was being confiscated as part of the Justice Department’s attempt to reclaim some of the lost money.
The IRS had learned that Jack Fisher had paid $750,000 for the now 15-year-old horse in 2017 and figured it would cash in. Of course, as horse people well know, what one pays for a horse and what one is valued at five years later can be drastically different – both upward and downward. In this case, Lex had suffered some injuries during competition and his value had plummeted. The government vet placed a value of $145,000 on the horse.
But the worst part for Christina was having to race home to find an empty stall. The government agents refused to wait for the 29-year-old rider to help calm and load the horse. Instead, he was loaded and shipped by strangers to Florida, ostensibly to be sold.
However, once the IRS realized the costs of keeping such a horse – Lex required a special and high-priced diet – they negotiated his safe return to Christina, who paid $25,000 to buy the horse back from the government. He arrived 10 hours before her wedding, where she’d planned to enter on his back.
“He was very cranky but he got off the trailer and he immediately whinnied at me,” Fisher told Bloomberg. She did indeed ride Lex through the stable to the ceremony.
We’d say all’s well that ends well, but shortly after coming home, Lex was diagnosed with equine herpesvirus (EHV). Fisher is convinced her horse contracted the highly-contagious illness while in the care of the IRS in Florida.
“I feel violated and helpless,” Fisher told the media outlet. “I’m not a part of [my father’s] case. I’m not a part of the business. I was completely caught off guard, and they took an innocent animal.”