The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation division has stepped up its prosecutions of tax preparers in Southern California.

“In the months following the 2009 tax filing season, legal actions have been taken against several dishonest tax preparers in our communities,” said Leslie P. DeMarco, special agent-in-charge for IRS-Criminal Investigation in Los Angeles, in a statement. “IRS-Criminal Investigation is committed to investigating those individuals who choose to undermine the honesty of our tax system for their personal financial gain, and ensure public confidence in tax professionals.”

Earlier this month, former IRS revenue officer Anthony Pendleton, owner of Payless Tax Services in Inglewood, was sentenced to 41 months in prison after he was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. (see Ex-IRS Officer Sentenced to 41 Months for Tax Fraud).

On July 7, Moreno Valley tax preparer Willena Stargell was found guilty of 12 charges relating to tax and financial fraud, and identity theft. She had worked at Liberty Tax Service and later opened her own tax preparation business called Liberty Bell Tax Service that she operated out of her home. She faces at least two years in prison.

On July 1, Chris Dobison, a Rancho Cucamonga self-employed tax preparer, pleaded guilty to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns. He faces up to 12 years in prison. On June 23, Joseph Usunubu Aluya, a Placentia tax preparer, pleaded guilty to stealing over $320,000 in tax refunds from clients (see Tax Preparer Indicted for Stealing $320K in Refunds). He faces up to five years in prison for tax evasion and up to 10 years for possession of stolen government money.

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