WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury in Fort Pierce, Fla., returned an indictment charging Ernst Pierre with filing false federal income tax returns and identity theft, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced. The indictment was unsealed today following Pierre’s arrest. Pierre is charged with 11 counts of filing a false tax return for clients of his business, one count of filing a false tax return for himself, three counts of wire fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to the indictment, from October 2009 through May 2011, Pierre filed false tax returns for clients of Tax Max, a Port St. Lucie, Fla., tax return preparation business he owned and operated. Pierre obtained the names and Social Security numbers of clients for whom he prepared and submitted federal income tax returns and that he then fraudulently used those names and Social Security numbers as “dependents” on client tax returns and on his own tax return. Inclusion of a dependent on a federal income tax return can result in a higher tax refund.
“Identity theft is a serious crime. And, when combined with tax refund schemes, it threatens the financial security of our citizens,” Wifredo Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “It is time for tax refund scammers to realize that we will not allow them to steal others’ identities and line their pockets through fraud.”
“The Tax Division is dedicated to protecting the personal identities of U.S. taxpayers and prosecuting criminals who steal those identities to commit federal crimes, including tax refund fraud,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General John A. DiCicco of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “We are working closely with the IRS and the United States Attorneys to protect the public from these crimes.”
“The IRS is aggressively pursuing those who steal others’ identities in order to file false returns,” said Steven Miller, IRS Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement. “Our cooperative work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Tax Division will help protect taxpayers in Southern Florida from being victimized by identity theft. The IRS is taking additional steps this tax season to further prevent, detect and resolve identity theft cases as soon as possible.”
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, Pierre faces a maximum potential sentence of three years in prison for each of the twelve false tax return counts, up to twenty years in prison for each of the three wire fraud counts, and a mandatory two-year sentence for each aggravated identity theft count. Pierre is also subject to fines and mandatory restitution if convicted.
This case was investigated by special agents from the IRS - Criminal Investigation. Tax Division trial attorneys Justin K. Gelfand and Thomas J. Krepp are prosecuting the case with the assistance of the United States Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Florida.
Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/tax.