Two Orlando Women Sentenced For Preparing Fraudulent Tax Returns For Three Years
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida
Orlando, Florida – U.S. District Judge Roy B. Dalton, Jr. has sentenced Erotida Natasha Harden Ortiz to eight years in federal prison and Aida Cortes to four years and six months in federal prison. A federal jury had found Harden and Cortes guilty in October 2022. Harden was convicted of conspiracy to defraud the United States and six counts of aiding in fraudulent and false statements related to IRS tax returns. Cortes was convicted of one count conspiracy to defraud the United States.
According to evidence admitted during the trial and sentencing hearing, Ortiz owned Certified Taxes, LLC and Cortes was her office manager. Prior to opening Certified Taxes, Harden and Cortes both worked for two other tax businesses that had been closed down by the IRS. From 2016 through 2018, Ortiz and Cortes orchestrated a scheme to file taxes for unsuspecting taxpayers by filling out fraudulent Schedule C forms, which showed a business loss and enabled the taxpayers to obtain the Earned Income Tax credit. By obtaining the Earned Income Tax credit, the taxpayers were able to receive refunds to which the taxpayers were not entitled. As a result, the taxpayers continued to come back to Certified Taxes every year. The evidence revealed that Certified Taxes did not provide the tax returns to the taxpayers to review or review the tax returns with the taxpayers prior to filing them with the IRS.
During the conspiracy, Certified Taxes filed more than 3,600 tax returns with the IRS, with only 1 tax return resulting in a taxpayer owing money to the IRS. For each tax return Certified Taxes charged the taxpayer approximately $400, resulting in Certified Taxes receiving more than $1.2 million in tax preparation fees. In addition, in the last year of operation, Harden claimed income from Certified Taxes of approximately $394,000 but due to a fraudulent Schedule C, which claimed expenses of $379,000 on her tax return, she was able to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and receive a refund of $6,375.
At sentencing, Harden and Cortes were ordered to repay the IRS $3.796 million in restitution for the fraudulent tax returns that generated tax refunds to which taxpayers were not entitled.
“Knowingly submitting false documents to the IRS is a crime,” said Ronald A. Loecker, IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge. “The defendants personally benefitted from filing false tax returns for clients and yesterday’s sentence demonstrates that willfully interfering with the integrity of our nation’s tax system will result in fraudsters spending time in prison.”
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Shawn P. Napier.
Updated March 29, 2023