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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of South Carolina

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tax Preparer Gets Prison for Creating False Tax Returns

(Abbeville woman operated a tax preparation service)

Contact Person: Beth Drake (803) 929-3000

Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Bill Nettles stated today that SANDRA BURTON, age 49, of Abbeville, South Carolina , was sentenced today in federal court in Spartanburg on ten counts of preparing materially false federal income tax returns, each a violation of Title 26, United States Code, Section 7206(2).  United States District Judge Mary G. Lewis ordered BURTON to serve 21 months in a federal prison and to pay restitution of $355, 529.00 to the Internal Revenue Service.  In addition, she was ordered to pay a special assessment of $1,000.00 and to serve one year of supervised release after being released from prison.

At BURTON’s guilty plea hearing on December 13, 2012, the Government offered facts showing that during the years 2006 through 2008 BURTON operated a tax return preparation service in Abbeville.  The majority of her clients were W-2 wage earners.

As a result of an unusually large number of returns prepared by BURTON claiming educational credits and IRA contributions, in 2008, an IRS undercover agent sought to have a return prepared based solely on a W-2. The return prepared by BURTON for the undercover agent included an IRA deduction and an education credit thus giving the undercover Ataxpayer@ a refund to which the agent otherwise would not have been entitled.

Thereafter, a search warrant was issued for BURTON's tax service which was searched by the IRS. In addition to evidence seized during the execution of the search warrant, BURTON admitted that she had given taxpayers deductions to which they were not entitled.  The other nine counts to which BURTON plead guilty involved similar materially false credits and deductions in returns prepared by her. 

United States Attorney Bill Nettles noted that, “Although we believe that the vast majority of tax preparers, like tax payers, are truthful and honest in their work product, calculations, and submissions, this office will continue to investigate and vigorously prosecute those who violate the law.”    Mr. Nettles also urged tax payers to heed the advice of IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Jeannie A. Hammett who has said: 

“If you choose to have your tax returns prepared by a return preparer, it is important to understand that you are ultimately responsible for all of the information on the tax return.  Dishonest return preparers use a variety of methods to formulate fraudulent and illegal deductions to reduce taxable income. And if the return is bad, it is the taxpayer whose name is on the return that will be responsible for paying the additional taxes, penalties and interest.”

The case was investigated by agents of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation.  Assistant United States Attorney William C. Lucius of the Greenville office handled the case.


Updated January 26, 2015