El Dorado Hills Woman Pleads Guilty in Bogus Tax Refund Scheme Involving More Than $1.8 Million in Illegitimate Refunds
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sherry Taggart, 56, of El Dorado Hills, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to file false claims and filing false claims, Acting United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, Taggart and her co-conspirator, Barbara Antonucci, an unlicensed tax preparer, prepared tax returns for clients seeking to maximize their refunds from the Internal Revenue Service. In 2008, Antonucci began a scheme to obtain false refunds by preparing and filing false claims on behalf of clients with the IRS. After May 2010, Taggart joined Antonucci’s scheme and together the two conspired to prepare and file hundreds of false claims with the IRS between June 2012 and March 2014, seeking refunds totaling approximately $1.4 million. As a result of the conspiracy, the IRS issued more than $757,000 in illegitimate refunds. In total, including the period in which Antonucci operated the scheme by herself, the IRS issued more than $1.8 million in illegitimate refunds from more than $2.5 million illegitimate claims filed during the scheme. On August 19, 2016, Antonucci pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false claims and filing false claims.
The fraudulent returns Taggart and Antonucci prepared and caused to be filed reported false wages and dependents for their clients and, in many cases, qualified the clients for the refundable Earned Income Credit (“EIC”) when the client’s true wages or family situation would have qualified the client for no credit or a lower credit. Most of the fraudulent returns listed wages associated with self-employment not documented by a Form W-2, such as “housekeeper.” The defendants obtained the names, social security numbers, and other personal identifying information of minors and falsely listed those minors as dependents on tax returns for clients who were unrelated to those minors. Taggart and Antonucci also filed false claims on their own behalf. They filed the false federal tax returns with the IRS through the mail and via the internet from Sacramento, Yuba and Placer Counties.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney André M. Espinosa is prosecuting the case.
Taggart is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. on December 9, 2016. Antonucci is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Burrell on December 2, 2016. Taggart and Antonucci face a maximum statutory penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to file false claims. The maximum penalty for filing false claims is up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.