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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 16, 2014

St. Charles Parish Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty On Morning Of Trial

A St. Charles Parish tax preparer pled guilty this morning to conspiracy to defraud the United States and, specifically, the Internal Revenue Service, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Allen Polite, Jr.  Her daughter, LASHANDA RUTH VINNETT, age 29, also of Destrehan, Louisiana, pled guilty on Friday, June 13, 2014, to the same charge.

According to court documents, CATHY ROSS VINNETT, 46, of Destrehan, Louisiana, opened the D&C Tax Service in 2006.  In 2008, CATHY VINNETT and LASHANDA VINNETT (“the VINNETTS”) created River Parish Tax Professionals (“River Parish”).  River Parish was established by the VINNETTS for the purpose of filing fraudulent tax returns.  The VINNETTS, through River Parish, filed approximately 310 tax returns which falsely claimed the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, as well as the listing of false dependents resulting in approximately $1.845 million in fraudulent tax refunds.  

CATHY VINNETT and LASHANDA VINNETT utilized recruiters to locate potential clients.  These recruiters advised potential clients that the federal Government was giving out stimulus money and instructed the individuals to visit River Parish in order to obtain their money.  The VINNETTS would interview clients at their office in LaPlace, Louisiana to obtain their personal information including their name, address and Social Security Number.  The  VINNETTS used that personal information to file false tax returns.  The clients had no knowledge that the VINNETTS were filing false returns in their names.

The VINNETTS specifically attempted to conceal and shield CATHY’s identity with the IRS, knowing that the IRS had previously suspended CATHY’S Electronic Filing Identification Number as a result of another fraudulent tax scheme involving D&C Tax Service.  Additionally, in May 2009, CATHY VINNETT knowingly made material false statements to IRS federal agents when she claimed she had no knowledge about false tax returns being prepared at River Parish, she did not own a tax business, and that her brother was the owner of River Parish.

United States District Court Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle will sentence CATHY VINNETT on October 1, 2014 and LASHANDA VINNETT on September 17, 2014.  The VINNETTS face a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment, followed by up to three years of supervised release, restitution, and a $250,000 fine.

Gabriel Grchan, Special Agent in Charge - IRS Criminal Investigation, stated that: “The guilty pleas entered by Cathy and Lashanda Vinnett represent a great victory for all U.S. taxpayers.  A tax stimulus, such as the First Time Homebuyer’s Credit, is meant to strengthen the country’s economy.  When these types of programs are exploited by fraud, it cannot be tolerated. IRS - CI will continue working to bring to justice those individuals who scheme and conspire to benefit themselves at the expense of other citizens and the government."

This case is being investigated by special agents from the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division.  The prosecution of this case is being handled by Fraud Unit Chief and Assistant U. S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Payne.

(Factual Basis - Cathy Vinnett )

(Factual Basis - Lashanda Vinnett )