After initially agreeing to a plead guilty to preparing bogus tax returns in January and then reneging on the decision, an Ohio man has plead guilty to one of the 27 tax fraud counts against him. Attorneys from both sides had already made their opening statements and a jury had been selected when the 36-year-old man decided to plead guilty to the fraud charge, effectively ending his trial on its second day. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled, but the man faces a fine of up to $100,000 and three years in prison.
The man was accused of artificially inflating tax refunds for 17 clients, doing so by fabricating and exaggerating education credits, business costs, property tax payments, charitable contributions and preparation fees. The suspect, who moved to the U.S. from Africa, reportedly catered his tax preparation services to African immigrants. An assistant U.S. attorney who helped prosecute the man argued that he fraudulently secured his customers hefty refunds in order to help bring more work to his business.
The Internal Revenue Service launched an investigation targeting the suspect, which involved an undercover agent hiring the suspect to complete his tax return. Investigators claim that while the agent should have received just a $90 refund, his return ultimately listed a refund of $540. The IRS claims that the tax fraud resulted in 17 clients receiving more than $45,000 in overpayments in tax refunds between 2005 and 2005. The agency said that each of the clients will be required to return the extra money to the IRS, along with applicable penalties and fines.
The suspect's attorney argued that his client was not responsible for the overpayments, as he filed the tax returns using data he received directly from his clients. He argued that the clients "signed those forms saying that this information was true."
When it comes to litigation, consistency is key. This man's changing pleas reflects poorly on him and his case. A qualified attorney who specializes in criminal defense can be of great benefit to someone who is facing criminal charges -- guilty or innocent -- and help to build a well-formed, well thought-out case for them.
Source: Columbus Dispatch, "Tax-fraud case: Preparer's guilty plea quickly ends trial," Kathy Lynn Gray, Sept. 26, 2012