Maryland Tax Preparer Pleads Guilty to Preparing False Returns and Aggravated Identity Theft
Office Sign Advertised Identities for Sale
A Maryland tax return preparer pleaded guilty yesterday to aiding and assisting in filing false tax returns and aggravated identity theft, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur of the District of Maryland.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Maria Espinal owned and operated a tax return preparation business located in Gaithersburg, Maryland. From 2011 through 2017, Maria Espinal prepared and filed fraudulent tax returns on behalf of her clients with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Comptroller of Maryland that claimed tax refunds to which the clients were not entitled. To generate a fraudulent refund, Espinal altered legitimate Forms W-2 in the names of third parties and replaced the third party’s name with her client’s name. As a result, her client claimed the third-party’s withholdings as his or her own, which generated fraudulent tax refunds.
In addition, Espinal displayed a sign on her office wall that read in Spanish “If you have lost your [identification] number or passport we have these people” and which listed the identifying information for several individuals. Espinal used the personal identifying information for one of those individuals to obtain a fraudulent refund on behalf of another client. Espinal also filed a tax return using another individual’s personal identifying information to generate a fraudulent refund that Espinal deposited into her own personal bank account.
U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang set sentencing for April 2, 2020. Espinal faces a mandatory sentence of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft, and three years in prison for aiding in the preparation of a false tax return. She also faces a period of supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Hur thanked Special Agents of IRS - Criminal Investigation and Enforcement Agents of the Comptroller of Maryland who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorney Carl Brooker of the Tax Division and Assistant United States Attorney Erin Pulice of the District or Maryland, who are prosecuting the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the Division’s website.