Oh, baby; all in the family; 63 calls to Western Union; and other highlights of recent tax cases.
Beaumont, Texas: Shannon Tecoko Mays, 39, has pleaded guilty to federal tax violations and failure to appear for his trial on that charge in early 2015.
According to information presented in court, an investigation began in August 2012 in response to numerous complaints to state and federal authorities from citizens in four Texas communities regarding income tax returns that were being fraudulently prepared on their behalf. Investigators discovered that Mays operated numerous offices across the U.S. under the name Syam Tax Services and Baby Momma Tax. Although the principal office was in Dallas, Mays also operated or sought to operate satellite offices in numerous other locations, including Fort Worth, Texas, and Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Mays was indicted in February 2014 and alleged to have targeted individuals who were generally exempt from having to file income tax returns because they would be less likely to discover a fraudulent return had been filed on their behalf. Mays employed “recruiters,” paying them from $50 to $100 for every client they successfully brought into Syam Tax. To avoid detection, Mays altered the taxpayer’s address and phone numbers on the returns so that any phone calls or correspondence from the IRS would not reach the taxpayer. The scheme also used e-deposits to ensure paper checks would not be mailed to the taxpayer.
For the tax year 2011, Mays filed 4,226 returns claiming some $6 million in refunds. An injunction suit brought by the Texas Attorney General in 2014 recovered approximately $1,282,000 from Syam Tax Services accounts.
One recruiter, Diana Broussard McCoy, pleaded guilty to the conspiracy charge in January 2015 and was sentenced to five years of probation. Another recruiter, Myra Jones, pleaded guilty in March 2014 to impersonating an IRS employee and was also sentenced to probation.
When trial was set for January 2015, Mays failed to appear for the final pretrial conference on and then failed to appear for trial. Mays was indicted by a federal grand jury for obstruction of justice the following month and he remained a fugitive until his capture in Fort Worth in August.
Mays faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud conspiracy and 10 years on the obstruction charge, of which the sentence for obstruction must run consecutively.
Camas, Wash.: Preparer Paula Odia, 43, of Vancouver, Wash., has pleaded guilty to assisting in filing false tax documents.
Odia prepared more than 50 fraudulent returns resulting in a tax loss to the U.S. that the government estimates is between $250,000 and $550,000. Most of Odia’s clients were unaware she had falsified their returns or that she directed a portion of their refund to her bank account or to accounts belonging to members of her family.
According to case records, between 2011 and 2016 Odia prepared federal income taxes for clients from her Camas home. In 2011, she began claiming illegitimate deductions and credits in her clients’ returns, reducing clients’ tax obligations and increasing refunds. Odia then diverted a portion of that refund to bank accounts that she or members of her family controlled. When Odia provided copies of returns to clients, these copies did not reflect what she actually filed with the IRS.
Assisting in filing false tax documents is punishable by up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a $100,000 fine. As part of her plea agreement, Odia has agreed to pay restitution to the U.S. for the tax loss. Sentencing is Jan. 5.
Garland, Texas: Preparer Mike Cano of Wylie, Texas, has pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false individual income tax returns.
In September 2016, Cano and co-defendants Jimmy Luis Briseno, Rene N. Barrera Sr. and Christopher Lee DeLeon were charged with conspiracy to defraud the IRS and other charges related to the filing of false returns. According to case papers, from January 2011 through March 2012 Cano worked as a preparer for Briseno at Tax Genius offices. Cano admitted that DeLeon, Briseno, Barrera and Cano all routinely prepared and caused to be e-filed federal individual income tax returns that contained one or more false Schedules C, false and fabricated education credits, and false items used to inflate and maximize the EITC on the return. Cano also stated that Briseno trained Cano and others to file false returns in 2011 and 2012.
Cano caused the filing of seven false returns resulting in a tax loss of $31,367 due to false refunds claimed. Sentencing is Jan. 10, when Cano faces a maximum of three years in federal prison and a $100,000 fine. He may also be ordered to pay restitution.
Philadelphia: Abdou Koudos Adissa, of the Republic of Benin and unlawfully residing in Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to 48 months in prison after being convicted in March of conspiring to commit access device fraud.
According to the indictment and evidence, from February through June 2014 Adissa engaged in a conspiracy in which stolen identities were used to file tax returns claiming federal refunds. Co-conspirators filed fraudulent returns seeking more than $800,000 in refunds that were loaded onto prepaid debit cards and sent via Western Union to Nigeria.
During a search of the apartment Adissa shared with a co-conspirator, agents found 106 debit cards in Adissa’s room. Adissa registered the Green Dot cards using stolen IDs and provided his co-conspirators with the direct deposit information related to the cards so that fraudulently obtained refunds could be directed to them.
According to evidence, he called Western Union 63 times in three months to facilitate transferring these fraudulent refunds to Nigeria.
Adissa was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay $252,840 in restitution to IRS. He is pending immigration removal proceedings.
San Jose, Calif.: A priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Hien Minh Nguyen, has been sentenced to 36 months in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion and being convicted of bank fraud.
According to documents and information provided to the court, from 2008 through 2011 Nguyen stole money that his parishioners donated to the Diocese of San Jose through cash and checks made as offerings during religious services. He deposited such checks into his personal bank account and used the funds for his benefit. He also wrote checks drawn on church business accounts to pay for personal expenses.
Nguyen evaded paying income taxes on the money he stole, concealing his embezzlement from his return preparer.
The court found that he embezzled $ 1,449,365 from the Catholic Church and evaded $582,453 in individual income taxes due to the IRS.
Nguyen was also ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to pay a $1,883,883 restitution, including $434,518 to the IRS.
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