A former California tax preparer was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Monday for filing dozens of false tax returns with the IRS.
Rene R. Lopez, 61, the former operator of Lopez & Associates Business Consultants in Van Nuys, California, was also ordered by US District Judge R. Gary Klausner to pay $114,467 to the IRS in restitution.
Lopez pleaded guilty in April to one of the nine counts in the indictment, which was presenting a false claim to the IRS. The specific count to which Lopez pleaded guilty relates to the filing of a fraudulent 2000 income tax return claiming a refund of $2,765.
However, according to court documents, Lopez prepared and filed at least 85 fraudulent income tax returns with the IRS, claiming $130,797 in false income tax refunds, from 1998 through 2001. Lopez submitted these false returns in the names of his clients without their knowledge and kept the fraudulent refund amounts for himself.
As part of the scheme, Lopez provided his clients with dummy returns that made it appear as if their tax liabilities had been correctly reported to the IRS. After a refund check was issued by the US Treasury Department based on the second fraudulent return, Lopez would issue his clients a cashier’s check for the correct amount of their federal income tax refund – and keep the larger fraudulent refund check for himself.
Lopez was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2003. Following his arrest, arraignment, and release on bond, Lopez fled the country for Colombia. He returned to the United States and surrendered to IRS authorities this past February.