Tax Fraud Scheme Results in Four Convictions and one Guilty Plea
PANAMA CITY, FLORIDA – Four defendants were convicted by a federal jury in Panama City yesterday, and a fifth defendant entered a guilty plea during the trial on a tax fraud scheme. Wilson Calle, 55, and Angel Done, 54, both of New York, New York, as well as Blaine Johnston, 62, of Marianna, Florida, were convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to defraud the United States by filing, or assisting others in filing, false federal income tax returns. The tax returns submitted by these defendants sought large refunds, to which the filers were not entitled. In addition to the conspiracy count, the jury found Calle, Done, and Johnston guilty on multiple counts of filing false federal income tax returns. Wilfredo Rodriguez, 53, of Miami, Florida, was also convicted by the jury of filing a false federal income tax return seeking a false and fraudulent refund. During the trial, a fifth defendant, Diana Gonzalez, 63, of Miami, Florida, pled guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States by filing, or assisting others in filing, false federal income tax returns seeking false and fraudulent refunds. The verdicts and guilty plea were announced by Pamela C. Marsh, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.
At trial, the government presented evidence that between 2008 and 2009, the defendants prepared and filed fraudulent tax returns seeking more than $19 million in refunds. By using an obscure IRS Form 1099-OID, the defendants falsely reported that defendants’ or their clients’ creditors had withheld large amounts of federal income taxes and paid this money over to the IRS. In doing so, the defendants used debts owed by them and their clients to mortgage companies and various other entities and reported those debts to the IRS as income tax withholdings in an attempt to have the IRS pay off their debts. As a result of the fraudulently overstated income tax withholding, the tax returns that were filed on behalf of the defendants or their clients claimed large refunds to which they were not entitled.
Calle, Done, and Johnston each face maximum sentences of ten years in prison with regard to the conspiracy charge and five years on each count of filing, or aiding others in filing, false tax returns. Gonzalez faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison on the charge of conspiring to file, or aiding others in filing, false tax returns. Rodriguez faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for filing a false tax return.
In announcing the verdict and the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Marsh explained: “Each year, millions of honest hard-working Americans pay their taxes and file accurate returns with the IRS. By stark contrast, these defendants concocted a fictitious tax scheme in an effort to steal millions of dollars from the government. My office will continue to work diligently with the Internal Revenue Service to identify these thieves and bring them to justice.”
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents in Charge James D. Robnett (Tampa, Florida) and Shantelle P. Kitchen (Newark, New Jersey) joined in stating: “In today’s economic environment it is more important than ever that the American people feel confident that everyone is playing by the rules and paying the taxes they owe. This case should make the public aware that promoting and participating in frivolous tax schemes is a crime, corrosive to the foundation of the federal income tax system, which the IRS will continue to aggressively pursue with its law enforcement partners.”
Each defendant is scheduled to be sentenced on December 18, 2013, before United States District Judge Richard Smoak.