WASHINGTON – The owner of First Premium Financial Services and a former employee were sentenced today to federal prison for conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with fraudulent tax returns they prepared for clients. Inuka Rhaheed, a former detective with the Fort Pierce, Fla., Police Department, was sentenced to 78 months in prison. Wilens Bertrand, a tax preparer at First Premium, was sentenced to 41 months in prison.
Today’s sentences were announced by Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; John A. DiCicco, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Departments Tax Division; and Jose A. Gonzalez, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI).
On June 11, 2011, Rhaheed and Bertrand were convicted after a four-day trial. According to evidence introduced at trial, Inuka and his wife Jacqueline Rhaheed owned and worked at First Premium Financial Services, a tax preparation business with offices in Fort Pierce and Vero Beach, Fla. Bertrand worked at the Fort Pierce office of First Premium Financial Services as a tax preparer.
According to the testimony of some of First Premium’s clients, the defendants placed false deductions on client tax returns without the clients’ knowledge or consent. In addition, evidence revealed that First Premium prepared and filed approximately 5,500 tax returns for the 2006-2008 tax years and that approximately 98 percent of those returns made a claim for a tax refund. The resulting total tax loss to the United States, based on expert testimony at trial, was at least $500,000.
According to evidence presented during the trial, clients paid a minimum fee of $300 for tax preparation services at First Premium. Clients included many law enforcement officers, who went to First Premium because they knew Inuka Rhaheed was a former law enforcement officer and trusted him and his business to prepare their taxes. In addition, other clients testified that they went to First Premium because they had heard through word of mouth that First Premium allowed deductions that other tax preparation services would not consider.
In addition to the prison term, the court sentenced Inuka Rhaheed to pay $727,729 in restitution and Bertrand to pay $539,954 in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release.
Jacqueline Rhaheed pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to defraud the United States on June 2, 2011. Jacqueline Rhaheed is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 7, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Ferrer and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General DiCicco commended the investigative efforts of the IRS-CI for their work investigating this case. The case was prosecuted by Justin Gelfand, Trial Attorney with the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Diana M. Acosta of the Southern District of Florida.
More information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/tax.