Agents at the IRS’s Criminal Investigation division have been cracking down on tax preparer fraud in Southern California in the waning days of tax season.

The enforcement of offenses involving return preparer fraud, questionable refund fraud and identity theft remain high priorities for the IRS, the agency noted.

“The IRS Criminal Investigation takes violations of tax law very seriously,” said Leslie P. DeMarco, special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Tax return preparers and individuals who choose to prepare and file false tax returns, steal refund payments, misuse client’s identity, or in any other manner undermine the honesty and integrity of our tax system risk prosecution.”

In the greater Southern California area, IRS Criminal Investigation special agents are actively investigating those involved in alleged criminal violations involving alleged return preparer fraud, questionable refund fraud, and identity theft. U.S. District Court records for the Central District of California included the following legal actions last week:

Last Friday, Ronald Vernon Strawn, 67, of Costa Mesa was arrested in Prescott, Ariz., after a federal grand jury indicted him last Wednesday on 50 counts charging him with preparing and filing false federal income tax returns in California.

The indictment alleges that Strawn prepared tax returns claiming fictitious business losses on Schedules C and E. Strawn allegedly claimed over $6.5 million in false business losses on at least 50 tax returns.

Strawn previously pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of filing a false tax return in December 2008 in an Arizona federal court. He faces up to 150 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million.

Last Thursday. Lynda McNeal, 57, of Apple Valley, Calif., was arrested in Phoenix, Ariz. On April 6, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles issued two separate indictments charging her and an associate, Ayeesha Stallworth, with multiple counts of making false claims against the United States by filing federal tax returns claiming false tax refunds. McNeal was also charged with identity theft.

McNeal allegedly filed seven false tax returns for others, each claiming a refund of between $15,846 and $31,968. Two of the returns were for individuals whose identities she stole. McNeal also filed two false returns for herself, for 2007 and 2008, each claiming over $30,000 in false refunds. Altogether, the nine returns claimed over $140,000 in false refunds.

Similarly, Stallworth, 40, was charged with filing four false tax returns for others and one for herself, claiming a total of nearly $70,000 in false refunds.

McNeal faces up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500,000. Stallworth faces up to 25 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.

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