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Monday, January 25, 2016

Federal Court Bars Florida Man from Owning Tax Preparation Business and from Preparing Federal Tax Returns for Others

A Former Franchisee of “LBS Tax Services” and Owner of “AWA Tax Services” Allegedly Operated Fraudulent Tax Preparation Businesses

A federal court in Miami, Florida, has permanently barred Wilfrid Antoine of Lake Worth, Florida, from preparing federal tax returns for others and from owning or operating a tax return preparation business, the Justice Department announced today. 

The civil injunction order, to which Antoine agreed, was signed by Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. 

The United States filed its civil injunction and disgorgement complaint against Antoine in September 2014.  The complaint alleged that return preparers in Antoine’s businesses targeted primarily low-income customers with deceptive and misleading advertisements, prepared and filed fraudulent tax returns to fraudulently increase their customers’ refunds, and profited through unconscionable, exorbitant and often undisclosed fees—all at the expense of their customers and the U.S. Treasury.

According to the complaint, Antoine owned and operated AWA Tax Inc., a corporation that operated seven tax return preparation stores in Florida.  Those stores allegedly operated as “LBS Tax Services” in 2013 and began operating as “AWA Tax Services” in 2014.  The complaint alleged that Antoine’s preparers engaged in fraudulent activity, including:

  • Falsely claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit;
  • Claiming improper filing status (i.e. head of household for married individuals);
  • Fabricating businesses and related business income and expenses;
  • Fabricating Schedule A deductions, such as unreimbursed employee business expenses;
  • Falsely claiming the fuel tax credit; and
  • Charging deceptive and unconscionable fees; 

According to the complaint, Antoine was a franchisee of LBS Tax Services.  Since September 2014, the United States has filed nine similar lawsuits in Florida against the former LBS Tax Services franchisor Walner Gachette and 12 former LBS franchisees and managers, many of whom rebranded and have continued to operate tax preparation businesses.  The franchisees and managers include Douglas Mesadieu, Jean Demesmin, Kerny Pierre-Louis, Demetrius Scott, Jason Stinson, Tonya Chambers, Jehoakim Victor, Lauri Rodriguez, Milot Odne, Alexander Baraz and Christopher Lawrence.  The United States has also sued Kenneth Aikens, who worked for Lawrence as a tax preparer and manager before Aikens assumed ownership of several tax return preparation stores.  In the complaint against Lawrence and Aikens, the government alleges that both men have taken steps to mask their ownership of the businesses.

To date, Jean Demesmin, Odne, Chambers, Scott, Pierre-Louis, Victor and Lauri Rodriguez have agreed to preliminary injunctions barring them from tax return preparation.  The U.S. District Court for the Central District of Florida, following a motion by the United States, entered a preliminary injunction barring Mesadieu from tax return preparation.  A preliminary injunction motion to bar Stinson from tax return preparation is pending. 

Return preparer fraud was one of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2015.  The IRS has some tips on their website for choosing a tax preparer, and has launched a free directory of federal tax preparers.  In the past decade, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against hundreds of unscrupulous tax preparers.  Information about these cases is available on the Justice Department’s website.  An alphabetical listing of persons enjoined from preparing returns and promoting tax schemes can be found on this page.  If you believe that one of the enjoined persons or businesses may be violating an injunction, please contact the Tax Division with details.

Topic(s): 
Tax
Component(s): 
Press Release Number: 
16-082
Updated February 8, 2016