Skip to main content
Press Release

Mississippi Tax Preparers Sentenced to Prison in False Tax Return Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Conspirators Filed Thousands of False Client Returns Causing More Than $3.5 Million in Loss

A group of Mississippi tax return preparers were sentenced to prison yesterday for charges related to a conspiracy to prepare and file false tax returns for clients in Jackson, Mississippi.

Adam Earnest was sentenced to 100 months in prison, James Klish was sentenced to 50 months in prison and John Wells was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Each was also ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Daniel P. Jordan III for the Southern District of Mississippi to serve three years of supervised release and to pay restitution to the United States in an amount the court will later determine.

Two other conspirators, Christopher Rendell and Jonathan Barefoot, will be sentenced at a later date.

A federal jury convicted Earnest, Klish and Rendell of conspiring to defraud the United States by preparing false tax returns at Sunbelt Tax Service, a return preparation business that operated in Jackson. Earnest and Randell were also convicted of preparing such returns. Wells and Barefoot pleaded guilty before the trial to crimes related to preparing and filing false tax returns for clients.

According to court documents and evidence presented in court, Earnest, Randell, Klish, Barefoot and Wells worked at Sunbelt and conspired together to claim inflated tax refunds for clients by reporting false education credits, itemized deductions and business profits or losses on their clients’ tax returns. Over the years, they prepared thousands of fraudulent returns, causing over $3.5 million in tax loss to the IRS.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division made the announcement.

IRS Criminal Investigation investigated the case.

Trial Attorneys Patrick Elwell, Zachary Cobb and Mary Frances Richardson of the Tax Division prosecuted the case.

Updated February 23, 2024

Press Release Number: 24-210