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NATCHITOCHES TAX PREPARER SENTENCED TO 18 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR FILING FALSE TAX RETURNS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 2014

ALEXANDRIA, La. United States Attorney Stephanie A. Finley announced today that Lashanda E. Harris, 38, of Natchitoches, La., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dee D. Drell, to 18 months in prison and a year of supervised release for aiding and assisting in making and subscribing a false return. She was also ordered to pay $101,795 in restitution.  Harris pleaded guilty October 29, 2013.

According to evidence presented at the guilty plea, from January 2012 to April 2012, Harris, a tax preparer in Natchitoches, assisted customers in preparing false tax returns for tax year 2011.  The returns contained false information concerning W-2, federal tax withholdings, Earned Income Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit.  Based on the false statements in the tax returns, individuals were able to obtain in excess of $100,000 in fraudulent tax refunds.  As part of the scheme, Harris received “kickbacks” from the customers.

The Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth D. Reeg prosecuted the case.

Tax filing season is upon us, U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley urges the public to also protect themselves from identity thieves.  Tax identity theft can occur when someone files a phony tax return using your personal information to get a tax refund from the IRSIt can also happen when someone uses a Social Security number to get a job or claims a child who is not theirs as a dependent on a tax return. Tax identity theft is the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission. The IRS has made tax identity theft a top priority.

Keep your personal information safe by:

  • shredding personal information before trashing it;
  • being aware of imposters who send phony emails that look like they’re from the IRS asking for personal information; and
  • limiting the personal information given to the public and businesses.

For those who have had their identity stolen and used for fraud, the IRS will issue a special PIN to use for filing taxes.  Information on the PIN program is available at www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Combats-Identity-Theft-and-Refund-Fraud-on-Many-Fronts-2014. Please visit the FTC at ftc.gov/idtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft for more information about tax identity theft.

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