A Chicago woman who helped a former rabbi try to bilk the Internal Revenue Service out of nearly $500,000 by filing income tax refunds in the names of deceased people pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal charges, the Daily Southtown in Chicago reported.
Therese Daniels admitted in court that she was paid $350 a week to prepare taxes in 1999 and 2000 on behalf of former rabbi Marvin Berkowitz, who is now a fugitive. Authorities believe he is living in Israel, the Southtown reported, adding he was permanently banned by a federal judge from tax preparation work in 1984.
Berkowitz, Daniels and four others were charged last year in the scheme. Authorities believe they filed more than 1,000 false returns seeking up to $5 million in IRS refunds, successfully receiving $2 million, the Southtown reported.
Using published obituaries and public records to obtain Social Security numbers the group used the information to get old tax returns from the IRS and then forged signatures on new, phony forms.
The plea agreement showed that Daniels helped submit phony tax returns claiming a total in $483,000 in refunds; the IRS refunded about $141,000 of that amount. Many of the refund checks were sent by the IRS to homes of Daniels' friends and family members in Harvey, Blue Island and Joliet and were then cashed by Berkowitz at currency exchanges, the Southtown reported.
She has been convicted of forgery twice in the past and has spent nine months in prison and has been convicted on credit card fraud, spending two years prison after violating her probation in that case, records show, the Southtown reported. She faces up to 10 years in prison.