A Southern California tax preparer was sentenced to 66 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges that he helped clients claim more than $3.6 million in fraudulent refunds.

Robert Dean Larsen, of Riverside, Calif., was ordered by U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips to spend three years on supervised release and pay restitution of $204,099.93 to the IRS. 

Larsen pleaded guilty last August to conspiring to defraud the IRS and two counts of aiding and abetting in the preparation of a false tax return. Larsen, who operated Larsen’s Tax Pros at various locations in San Bernardino County and operated Laza’s Tax Service in Apple Valley, admitted in his plea agreement that, from 2002 to 2006, tax return preparers at his businesses filed at least 1,162 tax returns with the IRS that were false and that the tax loss based upon the false returns was more than $3.6 million. 

According to his plea agreement, Larsen hired Christopher Daniel Laza to assist him in the preparation of tax returns. In 2004, Larsen and Laza began to operate their tax preparation business through a partnership, Laza’s Tax Service. 

As a part of their scheme to defraud the IRS, Larsen admitted that he and Laza prepared income tax returns for clients that contained one or more false statements. The items on the returns that contained false statements included taxes paid, mortgage interest paid, charitable contributions, unreimbursed employee business expenses, business losses, and investment losses, among others. 

The falsified or inflated items listed on the tax returns were not provided to Larsen and Laza by their clients during the preparation of the tax returns.  When a client asked either Larsen or Laza about the falsified items listed on their tax returns, the client was sometimes told that Larsen possessed specialized knowledge in tax preparation with regard to deductions or that receipts could be obtained to justify the expense in question. 

Additionally, Larsen admitted in his plea agreement that he willfully aided and assisted in the preparation of two materially false and fraudulent tax returns for his clients for tax years 2002. Specifically, Larsen admitted that he knew that deductions he claimed on client’s returns for real estate taxes, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, employee business expenses, and miscellaneous deductions were false.

At the conclusion of Monday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Phillips ordered Larsen to begin serving his sentence on April 4, 2011.

Larsen’s co-defendant, Laza, is scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Phillips on May 31, 2011.

The investigation of both Larsen and Laza was conducted by IRS-Criminal Investigation’s Los Angeles Field Office in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central Judicial District of California.

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