Five Indicted in Las Vegas for False Tax Return/Refund Scheme
Las Vegas, Nev. - Daniel G. Bogden, United States Attorney for the District of Nevada, and Byram Tichenor, Special Agent-in-Charge of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation for Nevada and Utah, announce that DAVID BETHLEY, age 30, JOHNING WALKER, a/k/a JOHNNY WALKER, age 29, MIKO FIELDS, age 29, ANDREW THOMAS, age 26, and THOMAS WILRIDGE, age 36, all residents of the Las Vegas, Nevada area, have been charged by the Grand Jury sitting in the District of Nevada in Las Vegas with conspiring to defraud the IRS by submitting numerous false income tax returns and obtaining tax refund payments to which they were not entitled.
The 30-count Indictment charges all five defendants with one count of Conspiracy to Defraud the Government, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286, and each with different counts of False, Fictitious, or Fraudulent Claims and Aiding and Abetting, violations of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 287 and 2.
The Indictment, returned on March 11, 2003, alleges that the defendants solicited and recruited persons to submit false and fraudulent tax returns to the IRS. Almost all of the persons recruited by the defendants resided in the Las Vegas area. The defendants obtained blank W-2 forms, prepared them with fraudulent income and withholding information, provided the completed false W-2 form to the recruited person, and directed the recruited person to file the return electronically with a local tax preparation business and obtain a refund anticipation loan. In some cases, the recruited person gave a portion of any refund received to one or more of the defendants and kept the remaining portion. The Indictment lists 29 persons who were recruited to file 29 false tax returns between February 1, 2002, and April 15, 2002. The refunds claimed were in excess of $130,000.
All five defendants were arrested in the Las Vegas area the morning of March 12, 2003. They are currently in custody, awaiting an initial appearance hearing before a United States Magistrate Judge.
If convicted, the defendants are facing up to ten years in prison on the Conspiracy count and up to five years in prison on all the additional counts for making False, Fictitious, or Fraudulent Claims. The defendants are also facing fines of up to $250,000 on each count. The actual sentence, however, will be dictated by the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of factors and will be imposed at the discretion of the Court.
IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Tichenor stated, "We are well into tax filing season, and IRS Criminal Investigation is actively investigating allegations of false claims for refund. As part of this effort, we pro-actively examine preparers who are suspected of preparing false tax returns. Citizens need to be aware that regardless of who prepares their return, they are responsible for the content. The submission of false information or claims subjects both the preparer and the individual who signs the return to significant penalties and interest, and in some cases potential criminal charges."
The case was investigated by Special Agents with IRS Criminal Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brian J. Quarles.
The public is reminded that an Indictment contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.