El Dorado Hills Woman Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Tax Refund Conspiracy Involving More than $750,000 in Illegitimate Refunds
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. sentenced Sherry Taggart, 57, of El Dorado Hills, today to two years in prison and ordered her to pay $757,412 in restitution for conspiring to file false claims and filing false claims, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced. Taggart pleaded guilty to the charges on September 23, 2016.
According to court documents in 2010, Taggart joined a scheme initiated in 2008 and operated by her co-conspirator, Barbara Antonucci, an unlicensed tax preparer, to obtain false refunds by preparing and filing false claims on behalf of clients with the IRS. 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.
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.
“As we approach tax filing season next month it is important that this sentence represents adverse consequences for those tax return preparers who file false tax returns for their clients,” said Michael T. Batdorf, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “It is important for tax return preparers to follow the law and guidance set forth by IRS on preparing tax returns. It is also very important for taxpayers to review their tax return with their tax return preparer to verify it has been prepared correctly before it is filed with the IRS and ask questions when they do not understand what has been prepared.”
San Francisco Division Inspector in Charge Rafael Nunez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service stated, “We are working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners in law enforcement to arrest and prosecute those responsible for complex Identity Fraud Schemes and to protect the public and their personal information from theft.”
Taggart was ordered to surrender to begin serving her sentence on February 17, 2017. Antonucci was sentenced on December 2, 2016, to three and a half years in prison.
This case was the product of an investigation by the IRS‑Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney André M. Espinosa prosecuted the case.