Justice Department announces indictment, lawsuits targeting false tax credit claims
The federal government this week has filed six lawsuits in five states to stop tax return preparers from fraudulently claiming the first-time homebuyer tax credit and the earned-income tax credit, according to the Justice Department.
- A complaint filed in federal court in McAllen, Texas, alleges that tax return preparer Jose Cabrera and his business, JEC Business Consulting of Pharr, Texas, prepare federal income tax returns on which they falsely claim the first-time-homebuyer credit for their customers. The United States seeks a civil injunction order to stop them from improperly claiming the credit. The suit alleges that Cabrera makes no attempt to determine if his customers qualify for the credit and that he repeatedly claimed the credit on his customers’ tax returns even though he knew the customers had not purchased new homes. Cabrera allegedly claimed at least $985,000 in credits in 2009.
- The government has asked a federal court in Philadelphia to stop Friday James, a former high school math teacher from Lansdowne, Pa., from preparing any federal tax returns for others. The complaint alleges that James and his business, Frika Tax Services, falsely claim the first-time homebuyer credit and claim false business expense deductions for his customers, many of whom are West African immigrants with little or no knowledge of the credit. The government alleges that James repeatedly claimed the credit on his customers’ returns when he knew they had not purchased homes within the applicable time period and that he fabricated the date of purchase on forms he submitted to the IRS. James allegedly claimed at least $1.2 million in credits in 2009.
- The Justice Department sued tax-return preparer Delois Warren of Greensboro, Ala., and her business, Branjalo Tax Service, to stop her from preparing federal tax returns for others. Warren allegedly claimed the first-time homebuyer credit on her customers’ returns even after they told her that they did not purchase homes in the applicable tax years. The suit also alleges that Warren prepared returns containing false information in order to fabricate higher tax refunds through overstated earned-income tax credits.
- In December 2010, Kenneth Harris and Lacrecia Ward of Memphis, Tenn., pleaded guilty to conspiring to file false claims against the United States by filing false tax returns claiming the first-time homebuyer credit. Each of them faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 upon sentencing.
- In December 2010, Latricia Ann Williams, Gezelle Helena Amaechi and Shelton DeWayne Tanner were indicted by a federal grand jury in Arizona for conspiracy, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. According to the indictment, the defendants filed 180 income tax returns falsely claiming more than $1 million in tax refunds based on, among other things, false statements of eligibility for tax credits such as the first-time homebuyer credit.
- In November 2010, Jeffrey Leon Ceaser of Montgomery, Ala., pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States and identity theft for his role in the filing of 158 federal tax returns that falsely claimed the first-time-homebuyer credit and fuel tax credits. Ceaser faces a maximum of 25 years in prison when sentenced. In December 2010, Ora Mae Adamson of Montgomery pleaded guilty to the same charges before the same court.
- In November 2010, Mary Singleton pleaded guilty in a South Carolina federal court to one count of assisting an individual in filing a fraudulent claim for the first-time homebuyer credit. She faces a maximum prison sentence of three years upon sentencing.
- In November 2010, Georgia Ann Cloud of Tallahassee, Fla., was indicted on 17 counts of assisting individuals in filing fraudulent tax returns with false claims for the first-time homebuyer credit and one count of filing such a tax return herself.
- In October 2010, Roderick Smith was sentenced by a federal court in Peoria, Ill., to 24 months in prison after having pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax refund claim with the IRS. The indictment alleged that Smith falsely claimed on income tax returns that his clients were entitled to the first-time homebuyer credit. He was also ordered to pay $73,793 in restitution to the IRS.
- In October 2010, Gregory Carter of Columbus, Ga., was indicted on 25 counts of assisting in the preparation of fraudulent tax returns that included, among other things, false claims for first-time-homebuyer credits.
- In August 2010, Lois Torres of Uvalde, Texas, was indicted on 15 counts of assisting individuals in filing false federal income tax returns falsely claiming the first-time homebuyer credit.
- In July 2010, Byron Meeks of Independence, Mo., was indicted on 15 counts of filing false claims against the United States for, among other things, fraudulent first-time homebuyer credits. In December 2010, Meeks agreed to plead guilty to one of those counts. He faces a maximum prison sentence of five years upon sentencing.
- In April 2010, Kashawn Monique Savery of Los Angeles pleaded guilty to 10 counts of filing false claims against the United States. She admitted filing more than 200 false tax returns claiming more than $1.3 million in refunds based on fraudulently claimed first-time homebuyer tax credits and earned-income tax credits.
- The Justice Department sued Carmen Gonzalez of Allentown, Pa., who does business as Carmen Tax Services in New Brunswick, N.J., to stop her from preparing tax returns for others. According to the complaint, Gonzalez fails to comply with due diligence requirements imposed by federal law on tax return preparers who claim the earned-income tax credit, and she falsifies her customers’ information in order to maximize their credits. She has allegedly prepared at least 2,500 returns since 2007.
- A complaint filed in federal court in Miami seeks to bar Milagros Espinal of Hialeah, Fla., from preparing tax returns for others. The government alleges that Espinal claims improper or false tax credits, including earned-income credits, as well as fabricated or overstated tax deductions. She allegedly prepared at least 2,000 returns for the 2004 through 2007 tax years.