An Oregon tax preparer has been sentenced to six months in prison for using his clients’ personal information to defraud them and the Internal Revenue Service.

Job G. Lopez, 58, of Woodburn, Ore., was sentenced last Friday by U. S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez to six months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for making a false claim to the IRS for a tax refund. Lopez was also ordered to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $47,489.20. Judge Hernandez further ordered the defendant not to provide any tax services of any kind to anyone, regardless of whether he is paid for it in any form including money or gifts. Among other things, the defendant was ordered not to prepare tax returns or help people get Individual Tax Identification Numbers.

Lopez had previously admitted that he prepared and submitted fraudulent Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns in the names of his clients in order to get bogus refunds. Lopez did so without his clients’ knowledge, and he kept the money himself.

“While the majority of return preparers provide excellent service to their clients, a few unscrupulous tax preparers file false and fraudulent returns to defraud the government and the tax-paying public, including their own clients,” said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall in a statement. “During tax filing season, return preparers and taxpayers should be aware of the criminal consequences facing those who aid or assist in the filing of fraudulent tax returns. We will prosecute those preparers who betray their client's trust.”

Lopez is an unlicensed tax preparer who has operated in the Woodburn area. Most of his clients are Hispanic migrant workers who relied on him for his purported tax expertise. Lopez made multiple false claims that totaled $47,489.20 in tax returns to the IRS to get federal tax refunds issued in the names of several clients by using their names, signatures and Social Security numbers without their knowledge or approval. Lopez knew the claims were fraudulent in that they claimed refunds to which his clients were not entitled. In addition, Lopez forged his clients’ signatures on the returns and used his own mailing address on the amended tax returns so the refunds would be mailed to him, according to prosecutors. Lopez then forged his clients’ endorsements on the tax refund checks and deposited the money into his own personal bank account.

The Marion County Circuit Court previously imposed a permanent injunction against Lopez prohibiting him from offering or providing any services for federal or state tax-related matters in Oregon, including preparing personal income tax returns or assisting others in acquiring Individual Tax Identification Numbers.

“The predatory behavior of some unlicensed tax preparers harms us all,” said Kenneth J. Hines, the IRS special agent in charge of the Pacific Northwest. “Tax preparers who blatantly violate the law and treat their clients like pawns will not be tolerated.”

The case was investigated by the IRS’s Criminal Investigation division and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hannah Horsley.

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