Federal Court Permanently Bars Owner and Employees of Rhode Island Firm from Preparing Federal Tax Returns
WASHINGTON – A federal court in Providence, R.I., has ordered that Michael Brier, the owner of the tax return preparation firm Refunds Now Inc., and his employees, Jeffrey Sroufe, Esther Santiago and Carmen Miranda, be permanently barred from preparing federal income tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. The permanent injunction order, to which the four individuals consented, applies to them personally and doing business under the names Refunds Now Inc., RNTS Inc., FTIRS Inc., POTIRS Inc. and IHIRS Inc.
In November 2010 the court entered a preliminary injunction against Brier, Sroufe and Santiago after finding that at least 300 tax returns prepared by Brier and Refunds Now understated customers’ tax liabilities and that Brier and his employees fabricated tax deductions and credits on the returns. The court also noted that a Refunds Now employee had offered to provide one of Brier’s customers with fake receipts in order to substantiate amounts reported on the customer’s tax return.
According to the court, Brier and his employees prepared approximately 24,000 federal income tax returns between 2003 and 2007. The court found that the Internal Revenue Service examined 350 of those returns and determined that 92 percent of them required adjustments, resulting in a government-estimated loss of more than $1.1 million in tax revenue based on the examined returns.
The court’s permanent injunction order requires Brier, Sroufe and Santiago to mail a copy of the order to all customers for whom they have prepared tax returns since Jan. 1, 2004. The order additionally requires Brier to remove or cover all exterior signs at 381 Wickenden Street in Providence indicating that tax preparation service is offered there and to post a copy of the court’s order at the front and back entrances of that address.
Since 2001, the Justice Department’s Tax Division has obtained hundreds of injunctions to stop the promotion of tax-fraud schemes and the preparation of false tax returns. More information about these cases can be found at the Tax Division’s website .