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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Louisiana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

St. Charles Parish Tax Preparer Sentenced to 18 Months Imprisonment

U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced that LASHANDA VINNETT, age 30, of Destrehan, was sentenced today for conspiracy to defraud the United States and, specifically, the Internal Revenue Service.

United States District Court Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle sentenced VINNETT to 18 months incarceration, 3 years supervised release and restitution in the amount of $1,092,681.43 to the United States.  On October 21, 2014, co-defendant CATHY VINNETT, LASHANDA’s mother, was sentenced to 41 months incarceration.           

According to court documents, CATHY VINNETT opened the D&C Tax Service in 2006, and in 2008, CATHY VINNETT and LASHANDA VINNETT (“the VINNETTs”) created River Parish Tax Professionals (“River Parish”).  River Parish was established by the VINNETTs for the purpose of filing fraudulent tax returns.  The VINNETTs, through their company, River Parish, filed approximately 310 tax returns which falsely claimed the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, as well as the listing of false dependents, resulting in approximately $1.845 million in fraudulent tax refunds.  Prior to today’s proceeding, the IRS seized approximately $482,000 in illegal proceeds from bank accounts controlled by the VINNETTs.  In addition, the IRS successfully detected and prevented approximately $270,000 in intended fraudulent refunds before they were processed.

The VINNETTs utilized recruiters to locate potential clients.  These recruiters advised potential clients that the federal Government was giving out stimulus money and instructed the individuals to visit River Parish in order to obtain their money.  The VINNETTs would interview clients at their office in LaPlace, Louisiana, to obtain their personal information including their name, address, and Social Security Number.  The VINNETTs used that personal information to file false tax returns.  The clients had no knowledge that the VINNETTs were filing false returns in their names.

Further, the VINNETTs specifically attempted to conceal and shield CATHY’s identity from the IRS, knowing that the IRS had previously suspended CATHY’s Electronic Filing Identification Number as a result of another fraudulent tax scheme involving D&C Tax Service.

“I want to commend the IRS-CI for their exemplary work investigating River Parish Tax Professionals and its owner, Cathy Vinnett, and her daughter, Lashanda Vinnett,” stated U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to prevent fraud on any level and, in particular, those individuals who prepare and file fraudulent tax returns.”      

Acting Special Agent in Charge, Jerome R. McDuffie, of the IRS – Criminal Investigation New Orleans Field Office, stated, “We are very pleased with the sentences imposed by the court in this matter.  Cathy and Lashanda Vinnett used their business to defraud the government and to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers.  Lengthy prison sentences will allow them ample time to consider the seriousness of their crimes.  IRS-CI is diligent in our efforts to combat return preparer fraud.  As filing season is still underway, I would like to encourage taxpayers to exercise caution when choosing a return preparer, and also to report those they suspect of wrongdoing.”

U.S. Attorney Polite praised the work of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division in investigating this matter.  Fraud Unit Chief and Assistant U. S. Attorney Brian M. Klebba and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Payne were in charge of the prosecution.

Updated March 4, 2015