Owner of local tax preparation franchise sentenced on tax conspiracy charges
St. Louis, MO – JIMI CLARK, owner of a Mo' Money Tax franchise, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for falsely claiming educational tax credits on 47 returns. The American Opportunity Credit (AO Credit) allows certain taxpayers with educational expenses to take a refundable credit on their income taxes.
Jimi Clark supervised the preparation of tax returns at his franchise, addressed specific questions about returns as they arose, and generally supervised all preparers working in his franchise including his co-defendants, Justin Buford, Leslie Chaney, Ray Reed and Mary Taylor.
The defendants were trained on educational tax credits, including the American Opportunity Credit (AO Credit). Clark abused the AO Credit program at the Mo' Money franchise during the 2009 filing season to attract and keep clients. The office filed at least 47 returns with false and inflated AO Credit line items. On the vast majority of the line items on which AO Credits were claimed on the false returns, Clark and his preparers claimed exactly $3,765 in qualified education expenses. Out of 494 tax returns prepared for the 2009 tax year at Clark's franchise, more than half, 288 returns, claimed AO credits. On each of the 47 returns, the taxpayers did not incur the educational expenses claimed and were, therefore, not entitled to the AO credits. Defendants Chaney, Reed and Buford went so far as to false claim educational expenses on their personal 2009 returns. The tax loss to the United States on just the 47 returns exceeds $50,000. The tax loss for all 288 returns on which educational credits were claimed for the office in 2009 exceeds $300,000.
Sybil Smith, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation said, "While most return preparers provide excellent service to their clients, a few unscrupulous tax preparers file false and fraudulent returns to defraud the government, the tax-paying public and their own clients."
Jimi Clark, Memphis, Tennessee, pled guilty in July to conspiracy to commit tax fraud and aiding and abetting the preparation of false tax returns. He appeared today before U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig. Co-defendant Mary Taylor, Memphis, TN, was also sentenced today to 6 months prison for her part in the scheme.
Co-defendants Justin Buford, Memphis, Tennessee; Leslie Chaney, St. Louis, Missouri; Mary Taylor, Memphis, Tennessee; and Ray Reed, of St. Louis, Missouri, previously pled guilty to related charges and have been sentenced.
This case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Tom Albus is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.