A senior executive of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone who is also a tax preparer has pleaded guilty to submitting false and fraudulent tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service and cashing approximately $250,000 in fraudulently obtained tax refund checks.
Kelvin Crucey, 41, has been employed since 1996 by the empowerment zone, most recently as senior vice president of finance and administration. He is a member of both the Institute of Management Accountants and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Since approximately 1997, Crucey has also owned and operated a tax preparation business, Crucey and Associates.
Through his tax prep business, Crucey filed fraudulent tax returns using Social Security numbers and other identification information stolen from residents of Puerto Rico, according to prosecutors. The tax returns falsely claimed that the filers earned taxable income outside Puerto Rico but within the 50 states, and that they were entitled to a refund.
Kelvin Crucey exploited both his senior leadership position at the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone and his position as a tax preparer to advance his fraudulent scheme, said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement. This office will continue to work with our partners at the IRS to pursue corrupt tax preparers like Crucey who make money at the expense of the public.
In addition to obtaining the fraudulent tax refund checks, Crucey also took advantage of banking relationships he developed from his position at the empowerment zone to cash these refund checks, according to prosecutors.
From approximately 2004 through April 2006, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone maintained bank accounts at a JPMorgan Chase Bank in Manhattan. Thereafter, from at least April 2006 through 2007, UMEZ maintained bank accounts at a Manhattan-based branch of Commerce Bank. From 2006 through 2007, Crucey cashed at least $249,600 in federal tax refund checks at Chase and then Commerce, through a banker employed at both banks whom Crucey knew through his position at UMEZ. Crucey was able to cash the checks by falsely representing to the banker that the checks were for clients of his tax preparation business.
Crucey was arrested in April as part of a coordinated law enforcement operation known as Operation Brass Tax, in which over two dozen tax preparers were arrested and charged with various tax-related offenses. He pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to file false tax returns and one count of bank fraud. He faces up to 40 years in prison: 10 years on the conspiracy count, and 30 years on the bank fraud count. Sentencing is scheduled for January.
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