Owner of Atlanta Income Tax Preparation Firm Pleads Guilty to Multi-Million Dollar Refund Fraud
ATLANTA - Anita R. Ford, a/k/a Anita R. Dixon has pleaded guilty today for aiding or assisting in the presentation and filing of false personal income tax returns with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
“By filing thousands of false tax returns this defendant caused the U.S. Treasury to issue millions of dollars in fraudulent refunds to her clients,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Her scheme was stopped when she prepared a false tax return for an undercover IRS agent. This conviction should make abusive return preparers think twice before attempting to rob the U.S. Treasury.”
“At the IRS, protecting taxpayer money is a matter we take extremely seriously. An integral part of the agency’s mission involves detecting and catching fraudulent refund claims,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot. “The message this case sends is that participation in refund fraud schemes does not pay and those who do will be prosecuted. Additionally, taxpayers who receive fraudulent refunds, whether knowingly or not are responsible for repaying the money.”
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Between 2004 and 2012, Ford owned and operated Georgia Peach Financial & Fast Tax Service (“Georgia Peach”), an Atlanta personal income tax preparation business. During that time Ford prepared and electronically filed (“e-filed”) thousands of Form 1040 individual income tax returns with the IRS that intentionally misstated her clients’ income in order to generate fraudulent refunds. In particular, Ford made up fake side businesses with fake income and fake expenses, and then attached false Schedules C’s (“Profit or Loss from Business”) to the clients’ tax returns showing such made up income and expenses. This had the effect of off-setting her clients’ income tax liability from their real salaries, as reflected in Forms W2 (“Wage & Tax Statement”) issued by their real employers, generating false credits and refunds.
In March 2011, a Special Agent of IRS-CI visited Georgia Peach in an undercover capacity, posing as a taxpayer seeking to have a return prepared. Ford began preparing a tax return in the agent’s cover identity, based on a Form W2 in the cover identity, and informed the agent that they would owe approximately $200. In truth, the agent would have been due a refund of almost $400. Ford then created a fictitious Form Schedule C for a fake beauty salon business, with $30,000 in fake business expenses, generating a fraudulent refund of over $4,000, and e-filed the completed tax return with the IRS. To prepare and e-file the return, Ford charged a fee of $510. Ford did not provide a copy of the tax return to the undercover agent or review it with the undercover agent before e-filing it.
The returns identified in the scheme sought fraudulent refunds ranging from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, including at least one fraudulent refund of more than $30,000. As part of her plea agreement with the United States, Ford agreed that she is responsible for between $2.5 and $7 million in losses to the IRS.
Ford, 49, of Jonesboro, Ga., pleaded guilty to both counts of a two-count Criminal Information filed against her on October 4, 2013. The charges each carry a maximum sentence of three years, for a total of six years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count. Also, as part of the plea agreement, Ford has agreed to pay $5,732,021.50 in restitution to the United States Treasury. The sentencing has not yet been scheduled. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of IRS-CI.
Assistant United States Attorney David M. Chaiken is prosecuting the case.
The IRS would like to remind people that while most preparers provide excellent service to their clients, the IRS urges taxpayers to be very careful when choosing a tax preparer. Taxpayers should be as careful as they would be in choosing a doctor or a lawyer. It is important to know that even if someone else prepares a tax return, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for all the information on the tax return.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.