Florida Woman Pleads Guilty To Participatng
IN NASHUA-BASED NATIONWIDE TAX RETURN SCAM
CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE – Ann Marie Howard Aguiar, 47, of Jacksonville, Florida, has pleaded guilty in United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with a nationwide tax refund scheme, announced United States Attorney John P. Kacavas.
Aguiar admitted that she participated in a scheme, organized by former Nashua resident Craig S. Cudhea, to file a large number of false tax returns claiming refunds to which the persons in whose names the returns were filed were not entitled. The scheme, based in Nashua, resulted in the filing of thousands of false claims for tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service.
Cudhea recruited a nationwide network of pastors to solicit members of their congregations to provide their names and social security numbers on the false pretense that the information would be used to secure stimulus funds that they claimed the government was giving to the poor, disabled and unemployed. The pastors led churches in Virginia, Georgia, New York, Texas, South Carolina, Arkansas, Ohio and Nevada. Many congregants at these churches, consisting mostly of low income individuals with limited experience with the IRS, provided their personal identifying information and the pastors forwarded that information to Cudhea.
Cudhea then transmitted the personal identifying information to approximately eight women around the country who he had recruited via the internet to enter the information on electronic tax returns. Cudhea dubbed this group of women his “Angels,” and Aguiar was one of Cudhea’s Angels. Cudhea instructed Aguiar and the other Angels to report certain information on the falsified tax returns, including specific income amounts, withholding, and expenses such as education and child care that would generate credits and refunds. The information reported was always very similar and often identical.
Although Aguiar was aware that the financial information she reported was false, she prepared and electronically filed the tax returns with the IRS. Cudhea and his Angels filed more than 5000 false tax returns seeking refunds of approximately $9.4 million. Cudhea paid Aguiar a flat fee for each false return that she prepared that was accepted for processing by the IRS. Cudhea directed the IRS to pay portions of each refund to himself, the pastor who provided the personal identifying information, and sometimes the person in whose name the return was filed. The scheme induced the IRS to pay more than $4 million in false refund claims before it became aware of the fraudulent nature of the claims.
United States Attorney John P. Kacavas said, “Prosecuting cases of financial fraud, particularly cases in which the American taxpayer is the victim, is an essential mission of my office. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute fraudsters and restore stolen monies to the public fisc.”
Aguiar faces a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and maximum fine of $250,000. She is scheduled to be sentenced on January 16, 2015.
Cudhea, who was charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and other crimes in connection with the scheme, committed suicide after learning that he was being prosecuted. The charges against him have been dismissed.
This case was investigated by the Manchester field office of the IRS’s Criminal Investigation division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Morse.