Final Defendant Sentenced to Prison for Role in Nationwide Tax Fraud Scheme
Prepared Nearly $24 Million in False Tax Refund Claims Filed with IRS
A Georgia woman was sentenced to 51 months in prison today for conspiring to defraud the United States by promoting a nationwide tax fraud scheme involving more than 200 participants in at least 19 states.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Yomarie Febres, of Covington, prepared 77 false income tax returns that collectively sought more than $23.8 million in tax refunds from the IRS. Between 2014 and 2016, Febres’s co-conspirators held seminars throughout the country where they promoted the scheme and recruited clients to file false tax returns with the IRS by telling them that their mortgages and other debts entitled them to refunds. Information collected from clients was then provided to Febres for use in the preparation of false tax returns. The tax returns that Febres prepared falsely claimed that banks and other financial institutions had withheld large amounts of income taxes from the clients, which entitled the clients to refunds. In reality, the financial institutions had not paid any income to or withheld any taxes from the clients. The false returns Febres prepared caused the IRS to pay out more than $15 million in fraudulent refunds to scheme participants. Febres concealed her role in the scheme by falsely reporting that all of the returns were “self-prepared,” when she had actually created them.
Febres admitted that her co-conspirators charged clients approximately $10,000 to $15,000 in fees to participate in the scheme. Febres typically received a portion of the fee – typically $500 per client – for each tax return she prepared. Febres did not report on her 2014 and 2015 income tax returns the income she received for preparing these false returns. She also claimed false business losses on her personal tax returns.
In March, the main promoter of the fraud scheme, Iran Backstrom, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison, and Backstrom’s second-in-command, Mehef Bey, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. In April, Aaron Aqueron, who recruited clients and provided information to Febres for use in the preparation of false tax returns, was sentenced to more than four years in prison.
“Today’s sentence represents the culmination of years of work by the Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and IRS-Criminal Investigation,” said Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg. “The main promoters of this multimillion-dollar tax fraud conspiracy now has been identified, convicted and sentenced to a substantial prison term. The message to other would-be tax cheats is clear: no matter how sophisticated or complicated your scheme, we will uncover it, obtain your conviction and seek sentences that hold you fully responsible for your criminal conduct.”
“I am proud of the investigators and prosecutors who worked diligently to unravel this complex financial scheme and recover millions of dollars on behalf of American taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney Roger B. Handberg for the Middle District of Florida. “Today’s sentence, along with those previously imposed upon the co-conspirators in this case, shows that those who willfully violate our national’s tax laws should expect to face significant consequences for their crimes.”
“Plain and simple, you can’t defraud the U.S. government and not face repercussions for your crimes,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Payne of the IRS-Criminal Investigation Tampa Field Office. “Our investigation revealed that Febres not only misrepresented the refunds her clients were entitled to on their tax returns, but she also attempted to conceal her role in the criminal activity by failing to list herself as the tax preparer. Her actions landed her in federal prison with a hefty restitution amount due to the IRS.”
In addition to the term of imprisonment, the district judge also ordered Febres to serve two years of supervised release and pay $11,140,842.65 in restitution to the IRS.
IRS-Criminal Investigation investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Melissa S. Siskind, Kavitha Bondada and Isaiah Boyd III of the Tax Division, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chauncey A. Bratt for the Middle District of Florida, prosecuted the case.