CHICAGO — Federal authorities today announced criminal charges against three Chicago-area defendants for a variety of alleged tax frauds. Although Tax Day has recently come and gone, the prosecutions serve as a warning for citizens to comply with their tax obligations.
Two Chicago-area tax preparers were charged with assisting clients in obtaining thousands of dollars in fraudulent refunds. The preparers fraudulently reduced their clients’ tax liabilities by misrepresenting their eligibility to claim tax credits, such as dependent exemptions, education expenses, real estate and child credits.
In addition, an Illinois attorney was charged with filing fraudulent individual income tax returns that willfully omitted more than $637,000 in income he received from his law firm.
“It is imperative to remind the public that criminal tax prosecutions occur throughout the year,” said Joel R. Levin, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. “Tax preparers and individuals who willfully file false returns will be held accountable.”
“The IRS Criminal Investigation Division is committed to ensuring that all taxpayers pay their fair share,” said Gabriel L. Grchan, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. “We are aggressively serving the American people by investigating criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code. Tax fraud does not know a season – IRS special agents pursue criminals year round, not only at tax time.”
In addition to criminal penalties, including incarceration, fines and the costs of prosecution, tax evaders remain responsible for all taxes and interest due, as well as civil penalties, the officials noted. Individuals making false claims against the government may be required to pay restitution and could be sued civilly for an amount greater than the fraudulent claims.
In an indictment returned earlier this month, LAURIE HELFER, 55, was charged with preparing and filing false and fraudulent income tax returns. Helfer, a professional tax preparer who owned Northlake-based “The Tax Lady Laurie,” filed the returns on behalf of clients for the tax years 2008 through 2010, according to the indictment. The returns claimed false credits for earned income, education and child care expenses, the indictment states. The government in Helfer’s case is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rick D. Young and Carol A. Bell.
Another professional tax preparer, LONNIE BLAKNEY, who owned Chicago-based “Blakney Tax Associates,” was charged earlier this month with preparing and filing individual income tax returns that he knew contained false and fraudulent information. Blakney, 63, of Normal, Ill., filed the returns on behalf of various taxpayers for the tax years 2010 and 2011, according to the indictment. The false information included invalid credits for real estate taxes, charitable donations, child and dependent care costs, and education expenses, according to the indictment. The government in Blakney’s case is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney John D. Mitchell.
The attorney, TIMOTHY K. LIOU, was charged earlier this month with filing fraudulent individual income tax returns for the tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012. Liou, 50, of Wheaton, willfully omitted approximately $637,380 in gross income he had received from his firm, “The Liou Law Firm,” according to the indictment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Netols represents the government in Liou’s case.
The public is reminded that charges are not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
For tips and guidelines to assist taxpayers in choosing a reputable tax professional or preparing their own taxes, visit the official IRS website: https://www.irs.gov/help-resources.