A California tax preparer has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and a year of supervised release for preparing false tax returns and stealing tax refunds and stimulus checks.

Javier Francisco Vega, 52, owner of One Stop Tax Service of Redlands, Calif., was also ordered to pay $114,691 to the IRS and $19,524.50 to various taxpayer clients for a total of $134,215.50 in restitution by U.S. District Judge Gary A. Feess on Monday.  

Vega pleaded guilty in June to one count of preparing a false tax return. According to the plea agreement, from approximately 2005 to 2009, he knowingly prepared at least 45 fraudulent federal tax returns for at least 20 clients. 

The false tax returns Vega filed claimed false deductions, expenses or credits for which the taxpayer was either not entitled to claim or only entitled to claim substantially less than the reported amount, according to court documents. He allegedly included false information claiming dependents, unreimbursed employee business expenses, education credits, and business profit or loss. 

The total tax loss resulting from the fraudulent tax returns totaled $114,691.00. In most cases, Vega arranged for his clients’ inflated refunds to be sent to his office or deposited into bank accounts for a refund transfer transaction without his clients’ knowledge.  Vega also sometimes forged his clients’ signatures on the refund checks drawn and informed his clients that they were entitled to no refund, or to a refund lower than the amount he had obtained from them. In addition, Vega allegedly provided some of his clients with artificial tax returns.  

Vega also stole five refund checks and two stimulus checks intended for his clients, for whom he had filed accurate tax return information, according to prosecutors. The refund checks and stimulus checks were issued by the IRS. The total loss to those clients amounted to $19,524.50.

The investigation was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation division and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

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