Columbus, Ohio, Tax Return Preparation Firm with Large Portion of Elderly Customers Shut Down
A federal court in Columbus, Ohio, has permanently barred Tobias Elsass and his companies, “Fraud Recovery Group Inc.” and “Sensible Tax Services Inc.,” from preparing federal tax returns, promoting the availability of theft loss deductions, or engaging in any other tax-related business in the future. The Court found that Elsass and Fraud Recovery Group have continually and repeatedly promoted a nationwide scheme falsely informing their customers that they were entitled to claim large theft loss tax deductions, and then preparing the tax returns that improperly claimed such deductions. The civil injunction order was signed yesterday by Judge Peter C. Economus of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Elsass serves as president and founder of Fraud Recovery Group and Sensible Tax Services. The district court found that Elsass and his companies promoted a scheme that preyed largely on elderly investors across the United States who had suffered financial losses. Elsass and his companies told the investors that they could deduct their financial losses on their federal income tax returns in an advantaged way and receive large refunds. Under federal tax law, victims of truly fraudulent investment schemes, such as a Ponzi scheme, may properly deduct their financial losses as thefts only if they can substantiate that the losses were, among other things, the product of criminal conduct.
In its opinion, the court concluded that Elsass misled his elderly investor customers into believing that they had valid theft loss deductions, thereby inducing them to pay him and his companies to prepare and file amended tax returns. The opinion notes that hundreds of theft loss deductions claimed on tax returns prepared by Elsass and his companies were improper, because the financial losses they sought to deduct were merely the result of company mismanagement instead of criminal conduct – as Elsass knew. Elsass and his companies were also aware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was disallowing such claims, but filed similar claims for other investor customers in any event, in the hope that the later filings would escape IRS scrutiny. The court found that, as a result of such egregious conduct, Elsass and his companies potentially left their investor customers subject “to audits and scrutiny from the IRS.”
The court also determined that Elsass had intentionally engaged in “incompetent or disreputable” behavior not becoming a tax professional. Based on the record before it, the court found that Elsass seemed “perfectly willing to lie and deceive, even to the extent of possibly committing perjury, in order to advance his own interests.” Accordingly, the “sheer magnitude and variety of the Defendants’ transgressions” made permanent injunctive relief appropriate.
The court directed that FRG be closed and its operations terminated. The court’s injunction order permanently bars Elsass from engaging in any business relating to providing tax advice or the preparation of tax returns. Elsass and his companies are also prohibited from owning any interest in, operating, incorporating, working for or having any other association with any tax-related business in the future, and they must immediately divest any ownership interest they presently have with any such entities. The court’s order also requires Elsass and his companies to advise their existing customers of the injunction’s terms, and to provide the Government with a list of all current customers.
In the past decade, the Justice Department’s Tax Division has obtained more than 500 injunctions to stop tax fraud promoters and tax return preparers. Information about these cases is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/tax/taxpress2013.htm .