Tax Fraud Blotter


Phoenix: Espiridion Adrian Lugo (also known as Adrian Espiridion Lugo) of Buckeye, Ariz., pleaded guilty to charges that he used stolen identities to file false tax returns. According to court records, Lugo, arrested in January in Pittsburgh, ran a scheme from mid-2008 to about mid-2009 in which he obtained from the Internet the names and Social Security numbers of deceased individuals in California. He then prepared and filed federal income tax returns with the stolen identities, faking the deceased individuals' wages, withholdings, dependents, tax credits, and other deductions and hiding the funds in bank accounts under the name of “Uncle Sams Tax Service.” The scheme netted more than $279,000 in federal payments, with the IRS actually distributing some $186,000 to Lugo’s accounts. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 14, 2013, in Phoenix.

Miami: See “40 Defendants Charged in Florida Identity Theft Tax Fraud Cases.”

Albuquerque, N.M.: Michael Craig Celenze, 68, a former Albuquerque resident currently residing in Odessa, Texas, has been sentenced to prison for a year and a day for aiding and abetting the filing of a false income tax return. He was also ordered to pay $380,863.17 to the Crime Victim’s Fund of the U.S. Treasury. According to the indictment, Celenze held seminars nationwide in which he marketed the ownership of fractional shares in properties located in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, as tax-free investments with large returns. The seminars targeting older investors with established retirement funds. Celenze required at least $50,000 from each investor, then told them that their investment was part of an Allianz Life Insurance retirement program. (Celenze was in fact affiliated with Allianz as an insurance salesman at the time, but not authorized to collect rollover funds on behalf of Allianz.) Investigators say he devised a scheme to provide false information to financial institutions to transfer investors╒ retirement accounts into an account that he controlled.

Hartford, Conn.: Thomas Thorndike, 62, of Milford, Conn., pleaded guilty to preparing and filing a false federal income tax return while owner of Cornerstone Financial Services of Woodbury, Conn. According to the FBI, Thorndike prepared federal tax returns for individuals and businesses, offering tax-prep clients a chance to purchase “audit insurance” that would mean Thorndike could represent them before IRS audits. In preparing many of his clients? returns, Thorndike also cut the amount of tax due in a variety of ways, including false deductions for charitable contributions and false deductions for job expenses. He also prepared returns for his two sons that improperly identified cash payments from him to his children as wages, and also claimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in improper business deductions, including, but not limited to, wage expenses for his children, which actually were personal payments to them. When the IRS notified Thorndike that he was the subject of an audit for returns he prepared for 2006 and 2007, court records claimed he helped prepare false documents to support the deductions. Sentencing is slated for Jan. 3, 2013.

Boston: See “Blogger Convicted of Evading Taxes on Ad Revenue.”

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