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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Tax Preparers and Recruiter Admit Filing False Returns in Elaborate Tax Return Scam

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph J.M. Orabona (619) 546-7951


NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY February 16, 2017

SAN DIEGO – Two tax preparers and a recruiter working with those preparers pleaded guilty today in federal court, admitting to their involvement in a tax return scam that resulted in the filing of false returns, the use of stolen identities and the receipt of more than $880,000 in bogus tax refunds.


Rahim Ali Cummings and Ebrahim Ashamu were local tax preparers in El Cajon, California. Ashamu operated his tax preparation business as Vista Tax Services on El Cajon Boulevard. Rashad Abdul-Rahim worked with Cummings and Ashamu by recruiting customers and obtaining stolen identities to use in their fraudulent scheme. Cummings and Abdul-Rahim pleaded guilty to conspiracy and Ashamu pleaded guilty to filing false claims and aggravated identity theft before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nita L. Stormes.


According to the plea agreements, Cummings and Ashamu prepared and filed the false tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service between September 2011 and September 2012. Abdul-Rahim solicited and obtained the personal identifying information from the victims using false pretenses, such as informing the victims they could obtain “free” government money from alleged grant and senior programs. He concealed his intention to use the information to file false tax returns. Abdul-Rahim provided Cummings and Ashamu with the personal information of the victims in order for Cummings and Ashamu to prepare and file the false tax returns. The IRS uncovered the scheme because a majority of the refunds were mailed to addresses controlled by Cummings, Ashamu, and Abdul-Rahim.


The plea agreement for each defendant sets forth the amount of refunds directly deposited into bank accounts under their control. In particular, Cummings received approximately $470,042 in fraudulent refunds directly deposited into bank accounts he controlled. Ashamu received approximately $367,631. Abdul-Rahim received approximately $44,937 in fraudulent refunds and additional cash payments from Cummings and Ashamu for providing the victims’ information. As a result of their crimes, Cummings, Ashamu, and Abdul-Rahim caused approximately $882,610 in losses to the IRS. Each defendant has agreed to make full restitution to the IRS for the total amount of false refunds they each received.


Furthermore, as part of their plea agreements, Cummings, Ashamu, and Abdul-Rahim agreed to be permanently enjoined from preparing or filing federal income tax returns for anyone other than themselves. A civil complaint will be filed against them, and a permanent injunction will be entered to prevent Cummings, Ashamu, and Abdul-Rahim from acting as a tax preparer in the future.


With a new tax return filing season upon us, the public is reminded to always review a copy of any tax return prepared and filed on their behalf and to be skeptical of tax preparers that offer to obtain substantial tax refunds.


Cummings, Ashamu, and Abdul-Rahim are scheduled to be sentenced on May 1, 2017 at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez.


DEFENDANTS                                                                                Criminal Case No. 16CR0768-BEN

Rahim Ali Cummings                                                                        Age: 47                  Detroit, Michigan

Ebrahim Ashamu                                                                               Age: 58                  El Cajon, California

Rashad Abdul-Rahim Age:                                                                Age: 46                  El Cajon, California



Count 1 – Title 18, United States Code, Section 286 B Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud, File False Claims, Fraudulently Use a Social Security Number of Another, and Aggravated Identity Theft

Maximum penalties: 5 years in prison, $250,000 fine, 3 years of supervised release.




Count 33 – Title 18, United States Code, Section 287 B Filing False, Fictitious and Fraudulent Claims

Maximum penalties: 5 years in prison, $250,000 fine, 3 years of supervised release.


Count 56 – Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A – Aggravated Identity Theft

Maximum penalties: Mandatory 2-year sentence, to be served consecutive to any other prison term, $250,000 fine, 3 years of supervised release.



Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation

United States Secret Service



Press Release Number: 
Updated February 16, 2017