Alabama Tax Return Preparers and 19 Foreign Nationals Charged with Conspiring to Defraud the United States, Identity Theft and Money Laundering
Justice Department announced that a 14-count superseding indictment was unsealed today, charging JB Tax Professional Services Inc., Jacqueline J. Arias and Jose Bayron Estrada, of Spruce Pine, Ala., along with 19 foreign nationals, many of whom resided in the New Orleans area, with conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud by filing fraudulent income tax returns. The indictment also charges certain defendants with aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Most of the defendants were previously indicted in May 2013 and arrested in June 2013.
According to the indictment, members of the conspiracy obtained Forms W-2, often by purchasing them for cash, for the purposes of filing fraudulent income tax returns. Conspirators further obtained individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs) for use in filing fraudulent tax returns, in some cases using false applications filed with the assistance of Arias and JB Tax Professional Services. An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain, a social security number. Both Arias and the business were designated by the IRS as certified acceptance agents, which are entrusted by the IRS with the responsibility of reviewing the documentation of an ITIN applicant’s identity and alien status for authenticity, completeness and accuracy before submitting their application to the IRS.
The charging documents allege that the defendants used the social security numbers of real persons to conduct mail and wire fraud. The defendants also allegedly disguised and concealed the proceeds of their fraud by agreeing to conduct certain types of financial transactions.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Each defendant faces a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge. Each aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence, and the defendants charged in the money laundering conspiracy count face a possible maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. The defendants will also be subject to fines, mandatory restitution and forfeiture if convicted.
The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which oversees Homeland Security Investigations; IRS-Criminal Investigation; the U.S. Secret Service; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and the Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General, in partnership with the St. Tammany Parish, La. and Jefferson Parish, La. Sheriffs’ Departments. The case is being prosecuted by Tax Division Trial Attorneys Hayden Brockett and Kevin Lombardi.