Three Plead Guilty To False Tax Refund Scheme
MINNEAPOLIS— As Tax Day approaches, the United States Attorney’s Office reminds people be cautious of suspicious tax preparers. Earlier today in federal court, a Minnesota woman pleaded guilty to being part of a conspiracy to filing false tax returns to generate inflated refunds. Tameca Stokes specifically pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Stokes, who was indicted along with two co-defendants on January 15, 2013, entered her plea before U.S. District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen.
Yesterday, co-defendant Soloman Frank-Sawari also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, and on March 19, 2013, co-defendant Chasma Dixon did the same. The trio admittedly obstructed the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) and the State of Minnesota in their lawful collection of income taxes by falsifying hundreds of tax returns. All three admitted that the tax loss due to the conspiracy was between $80,000 and $200,000.
In their plea agreements, the three defendants admitted that from 2007 through 2010, they conspired with each other and others to prepare fraudulent tax returns for customers of Frank-Sawari’s tax preparation services, Merit Tax Service of Robbinsdale and Capitol Income Tax of Minneapolis. The returns generated inflated refunds for their customers and fees and other payments for themselves and others. The co-defendants admitted that on the returns, they provided false income and dependent information, among other things. They also instructed their customers to sign false income declarations and other paperwork to substantiate the fraudulent returns.
According to the IRS, approximately 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare and file their tax returns, with these paid preparers now collectively responsible for more than 80 million individual tax returns annually. “Tax return preparer fraud” is one of the IRS’s “Dirty Dozen Tax Scams.” For more information about the fight against tax fraud or how to choose a reliable tax return preparer, visit http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tips-for-Choosing-a-Tax-Return-Preparer.
For their crimes, the defendants in this case each face a potential maximum penalty of five years in federal prison. Judge Ericksen will determine their sentences at a future hearing, yet to be scheduled. This case was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigations. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Otteson.
Per U.S. Department of Justice policy, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is not allowed to provide the age and city of residence for defendants charged in criminal tax cases.