local tax preparer indicted on fraud charges
St. Louis, MO - The owner and operator of a St. Louis County tax preparation service was indicted yesterday for filing false returns and stealing the identities of taxpayers. RONALD SHONIWA, of Florissant, faces one count of theft of government funds for filing 15 tax returns, which generated more than $50,000 in improperly paid refunds, and two counts of aggravated identity theft for stealing the names and social security numbers of unsuspecting citizens and filing fraudulent returns in their names without their consent or knowledge.
If convicted, the theft of government funds count carries a maximum penalty of ten years, and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The aggravated identity theft counts are punishable by two years mandatory imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. The sentence for aggravated identity theft runs consecutively to any sentence imposed on the theft of government funds count. In determining the actual sentences, a Judge is required to consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide recommended sentencing ranges.
Additionally, restitution to the IRS for the improperly paid refunds will be sought.
United States Attorney Richard Callahan noted that "stolen identity refund fraud is a large and growing problem across the country, and the IRS and Justice Department dedicates substantial resources in fighting it, particularly at this time of year."
"Taxpayers should exercise caution when choosing a tax professional, especially since you will hand over your personal and financial identifying information," said Sybil Smith, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation. "They should also be aware of the many free, professional tax preparation services available to low and moderate income taxpayers and senior residents throughout St. Louis."
This case was investigated by IRS Criminal Investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Tom Albus is handling the case for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
As is always the case, charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.