A federal jury has found a Florida tax preparer guilty on 50 charges of preparing fraudulent individual and trust income tax returns, impeding the enforcement of tax laws, and criminal contempt.Louis Wayne Ratfield, of Lake Worth, Fla., was originally indicted on 56 counts for a tax fraud scheme that prosecutors said involved hidding income and assets in bogus trusts. According to the indictment, Ratfield’s scheme caused a tax loss to the federal government of more than $6.4 million.

Ratfield operated a tax preparation business, LWR Accounting and Tax Service, and also collaborated on a book, “The Constitutional Common-Law Trust,” which fraudulently advised readers that taxpayers could claim deductions for ordinary living expenses, such as the costs of utilities, food, clothing, vehicles and education. From 1997 on, he marketed “common law trust” packages to clients throughout the United States via group seminars and individual client meetings, selling more than 100 trust packages at prices ranging from $2,995 to $5,995 each, and prepared more than 250 federal tax returns in connection with the scheme. When the IRS began auditing his clients, prosecutors said that Ratfield took numerous steps to impede the agency’s work.

Ratfield faces a maximum potential sentence for each violation of up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and liability for the costs of prosecution. He could also face additional prison time, or a fine, on the criminal contempt charges.


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