A tax preparer was found not guilty on 21 counts of tax fraud after a two-week jury trial in a federal court in Akron, Ohio.

Sergio Gardea, 44, of SGO Accounting and Tax Services, was acquitted last week. Prosecutors dropped nine other counts with which Gardea had been charged near the end of the trial. He had faced up to 90 years in prison if he had been convicted on all 30 counts.

The case involved 30 tax returns Gardea filed for clients between 2013 and 2015 at his firm that wrongly claimed Child Tax Credits for people living outside the U.S. SGO provides payroll, bookkeeping and tax services for businesses and individual tax preparation across Northeast Ohio, with offices in both Akron and Canton.

Gardea pleaded not guilty to all charges, insisting he asked the proper questions of clients and accurately prepared returns based on the answers they provided.

His attorney, David M. Garvin, argued the clients couldn’t remember signing a Child Tax Credit information sheet attesting they were honest and properly qualified for the tax credit. He said Gardea was doing his job correctly and asking the right questions of his clients.

The Internal Revenue Service sent in an undercover agent asking Gardea to prepare a return, but Gardea prepared the return without the Child Tax Credit because the undercover client didn’t qualify, Garvin noted. He stated in his closing argument that “no tax preparer in the United States would be safe” if Gardea was found guilty

“I truly believe justice was served today,” Garvin said in a statement. “I think it’s a great, great day for all tax preparers.”

Garvin is a criminal tax attorney and CPA with offices in Miami. Gardea thanked him for his acquittal.

“I am extremely grateful to my attorney, Mr. David M. Garvin, for his tenacity and brilliance,” Gardea said in a statement. “After almost five years of investigation by the IRS, Mr. Garvin proved my innocence. He worked hard. During the home stretch he worked long hours for over 40 days without a day off. I am indebted to him for my liberty. I also want to thank my family, especially my wife and daughters, my friends and the community, for their unwavering support. Judge John Adams ensured I got a fair trial. He was tough, but fair through the entire process. I thank the jury for their attention during a difficult and lengthy trial.”


Bloomberg

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Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn, editor-in-chief of AccountingToday.com, has been covering business and technology for a variety of publications since 1985.