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Press Release

Cleveland Man Indicted for Preparing and Filing False Tax Returns

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio

A 33-count federal indictment was filed charging a Cleveland man with preparing dozens of false tax returns and falsely claiming more than $133,000 in refunds, said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Kathy A. Enstrom, Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office.

Sean Houston, 46, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud the government and 32 counts of making false, fictitious or fraudulent claims.

Nikita Griffin, 39, of Atlanta, was also indicted on one count of conspiracy to defraud the government.

“As we enter tax season, this indictment should serve as a reminder to those who would file fraudulent tax returns and claim money to which they aren’t entitled,” Dettelbach said.

“Law-abiding citizens expect the government to hold accountable those who use deceit and fraud to line their pockets with money, especially when that money represents stolen federal taxes,” Enstrom said. “We will continue to partner with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and investigate the criminals who engage in such brazen and fraudulent conduct.”

In 2010, Houston prepared false tax returns, listing fictitious wages and income-tax withholdings when he knew no wages had been earned and no taxes withheld. The returns also claimed “making work pay” tax credits to which they were not entitled, according to the indictment.

Houston also sent the filed tax returns to the Santa Barbara Bank and Trust in San Diego in order to obtain refund anticipation loans, from which he took preparation fees. In the course of the scheme, Houston claimed refunds totaling $133,612 and obtained preparation fees totaling $9,605, according to the indictment.

Houston solicited Griffin to negotiate refund checks generated by the scheme. Griffing deposited three checks into a bank account he controlled and helped third parties negotiate additional checks, according to the indictment.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James V. Moroney following an investigation by IRS-CI.

If convicted, the defendants’ sentences will be determined by the court after a review of the federal sentencing guidelines and factors unique to the case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record (if any), the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated March 17, 2015