Second Defendant Pleads Guilty in Multimillion Dollar Tax Fraud Scheme Involving Professional Athletes and Fraudulent PPP Loan Scheme
Schemes Caused More than $25 Million in Losses
A California man pleaded guilty today to conspiring with others in fraud schemes to defraud the IRS and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a federal loans initiative designed to help businesses pay their employees and meet expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Seir Robinson Havana, 46, was the Vice President/Director and Chief Executive Officer of Mana Tax Services, a tax preparation business in the Los Angeles area. Havana engaged in a conspiracy to commit two sets of fraud schemes using Mana Tax.
First, from May 2019 through November 2021, Havana conspired with Quin Ngoc Rudin and others to prepare and file with the IRS a series of false and fraudulent income tax returns on behalf of at least nine professional athletes. The false tax returns reported fabricated business and personal losses to generate refunds the athletes were not entitled to receive. Havana and his co-conspirators represented to the professional athletes that Quin Rudin had specialized knowledge their prior tax professionals lacked and that Mana Tax could obtain large refunds for the athletes. The co-conspirators also told the professional athletes that Mana Tax could amend prior year tax returns to correct purported errors made by the athletes’ previous accountants to get additional refunds they were not entitled to receive. Mana Tax then charged the athletes a fee of 30% of the resulting refund. To conceal the payments, Havana directed the athletes to send the fee to shell entities he controlled. In all, Havana collected more than $3.1 million in fees from the professional athletes.
From April 2020 through December 2021, Havana and his co-conspirators also used Mana Tax to apply for PPP loans on behalf of a number of small businesses, shell entities with few or no employees controlled by the co-conspirators, and business entities controlled by others. The co-conspirators grossly inflated the number of employees and monthly payroll costs claimed on the PPP loan applications and submitted fabricated tax returns in support of the applications. Some of the business owners never saw their loan applications before Mana Tax filed them, and some of the businesses were not eligible for PPP loans because they had no payroll expenses or had not been in operation during the relevant time period.
In exchange for processing the applications, Mana Tax charged a fee of 30% of the value of the loan received. To conceal this fee, Havana and his co-conspirators directed the businesses to pay the fee through cashier’s checks and to falsely note on the memo lines of the checks that the funds were related to payroll. The cashier’s checks were deposited into accounts controlled by Havana, who then transferred the funds to other bank accounts to further hide the source of the funds.
During the investigation, the government seized more than $11.8 million from bank accounts containing PPP loan fraud proceeds controlled by Havana and others. In addition, Havana surrendered cashier’s checks worth approximately $5.6 million, representing a portion of the fees charged to professional athletes for the preparation of their false tax returns, and a portion of the fees charged for obtaining fraudulent PPP loans. The two schemes resulted in total losses of more than $25 million.
Havana is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 9. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy charges and 20 years in prison for money laundering. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
On May 13, Rudin pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 14.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, U.S. Attorney Jessica D. Aber for the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge Wayne A. Jacobs of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, and Special Agent in Charge Darrell J. Waldon of the Washington, D.C. Field Office, IRS-Criminal Investigation made the announcement.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California provided assistance with the investigation.
Assistant Chief David Zisserson of the Tax Division and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly M. Shartar and Kimberly R. Pedersen are prosecuting the case.