A former CPA and tax preparer who spent the last three years on the run as a fugitive in Pakistan has been arraigned on charges that he submitted false claims for income tax refunds.

Masood Chotani, a tax preparer who used to work in Los Angeles County, was arraigned Monday on charges that he conspired to defraud the United States and made false claims for income tax refunds.  A federal grand jury in Riverside returned an indictment against Chotani on June 23, 2010. The indictment was unsealed earlier this year.

Chotani was apprehended with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service. This case was investigated by special agents of the IRS Criminal Investigation office in Laguna Niguel, Calif.  
The indictment alleges that in 2002 and 2003, Chotani along with Ather Ali and Haroon Amin conspired to file at least 250 false income tax returns with the IRS using the names and Social Security numbers of deceased individuals, claiming more than $2,000,000 in tax refunds. 

Many of the illegally obtained refund checks were allegedly deposited in bank accounts within the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of Armenia, according to prosecutors. 

According to court documents, most of the offenses occurred in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and Ventura counties. Chotani is also charged with personally preparing and filing two false claims for refund on federal income tax returns. 

Chotani's trial is scheduled for Sept. 4, 2012. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of conspiracy and presenting false claims.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles E. Pell and trial attorney Joseph A. Rillotta of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.

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