WASHINGTON – The Justice Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that yesterday Leslie Louise Brewster of Durham, N.C. was sentenced to serve 70 months in federal prison for crimes related to preparing false tax returns and identity fraud. She was also ordered to pay restitution to the IRS of $92,910. Brewster was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina William Osteen Jr., in Greensboro, N.C.
On Feb. 20, 2013, Brewster pleaded guilty to three felonies relating to her preparation of false tax returns: one count of aiding and assisting the preparation of a false tax return; one count of wire fraud; and one count of aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, Brewster was the manager of the Burlington, N.C. branch of Nothing But Taxes, a tax return preparation franchise with locations throughout North Carolina. Brewster falsified federal income tax returns for hundreds of Nothing But Taxes clients in order to obtain larger tax refunds for the clients than they were actually entitled to receive. The returns Brewster prepared for clients reported, among other items, false dependents, fictitious businesses and bogus education credits.
Brewster also purchased personal identifying information, including names and Social Security numbers, from members of the community. Brewster used this personal identifying information to claim false dependents on tax returns she prepared for clients, and provided some of the identities she purchased to other return preparers at Nothing But Taxes' Burlington location for their use in a similar fashion. Brewster typically charged Nothing But Taxes clients a cash fee, above Nothing But Taxes' normal flat fee for preparation of a return, to prepare a return containing false dependent information.
Recently, two defendants in related cases were also sentenced to prison for tax crimes arising out of the Nothing But Taxes scheme. Saichelle McNeill, a return preparer at the Greensboro branch of Nothing But Taxes, was sentenced to serve 27 months in prison on Aug. 20, 2013. McNeill previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and aiding and assisting the preparation of a false tax return. Tiffany Rogers, a return preparer at the Burlington branch of Nothing But Taxes, was sentenced to serve 48 months incarceration on Aug. 14, 2013. Rogers previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, willfully filing a false personal income tax return and aiding and assisting the preparation of a false tax return.
Two other Nothing But Taxes employees, Nikki Brewster and Dawn Williams, are currently awaiting sentencing in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. Each of them pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and aiding and assisting the preparation of false tax returns. Court documents associated with their respective guilty pleas allege that Nikki Brewster was the manager of a Nothing But Taxes branch in Durham, N.C., while Dawn Williams was a return preparer at the Burlington branch.
Court documents in the cases of Nikki Brewster, Dawn Williams, Tiffany Rogers, and Saichelle McNeill stated that those defendants, like Leslie Brewster, also prepared false tax returns for Nothing But Taxes clients, and committed identity theft by claiming false dependents on clients' tax returns.
"The Justice Department will investigate and prosecute fraudulent tax return preparers and those who steal identities to use in their tax fraud, whether the crime is committed by a single thief or a ring of thieves," said Kathryn Keneally, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Tax Division. "The prison sentence handed down today demonstrates that such invasions of personal privacy and theft of public monies will not be tolerated."
Ripley Rand, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, said, "We thank the Criminal Investigative Division of the IRS for their hard work in dismantling this tax fraud syndicate. We will continue to hold those accountable who attempt to cheat the government and place the burden of their fraud on lawful taxpayers."
This case and the related Nothing But Taxes cases are being investigated by special agents of the IRS- Criminal Investigation Division, and are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Chut and Trial Attorney Jonathan Marx of the Justice Department's Tax Division.