Chantale Baptiste, 33, of Coral Springs, Florida, was sentenced today to 33 months for conspiring with her husband and co-defendant, Weguel Legentus, to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with respect to claims, and filing false claims with the IRS.
Benjamin G. Greenberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Michael J. DePalma, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Dana Watson, Chief, Margate Police Department, Scott Israel, Sheriff, Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), and Drew J. Breakspear, Commissioner, Florida Department of Financial Regulations, made the announcement.
At sentencing, United States District Judge Darrin P. Gayles sentenced Baptiste to 33 months in prison. Baptiste agreed to pay restitution in the amount of $275,000. Baptiste will serve a three-year term of supervised release at the conclusion of her prison sentence.
According to publicly filed court documents, Baptiste and her husband, co-defendant Weguel Legentus, operated CMB Financial Group, Inc. (“CMB”), a tax preparation business, located primarily in Broward County. As tax preparers, Legentus and Baptiste would meet with their clients and prepare their clients’ tax returns. From at least as early as 2013 through 2016, Legentus and Baptiste prepared and filed false and fraudulent federal income tax returns on behalf of their clients. They did so by attaching to their clients’ tax returns false and fraudulent tax credit forms, and false and fraudulent IRS Schedule C forms reflecting profits or losses associated with businesses that their clients did not operate. These false and fraudulent credits and Schedule C profits or losses had the effect of increasing the refund owed by the IRS to the client. Legentus and Baptiste would then provide their clients with a copy of their prepared federal income tax return and represent that the information contained in the copy provided would be filed with the IRS on his clients’ behalf.
Baptiste and Legentus would then alter their clients’ tax returns without their clients’ knowledge and inflate the refund amount requested even further. Baptiste and Legentus would then file the false and fraudulent federal income tax returns with the inflated refund amount with the IRS. The IRS would then disburse the tax refunds to bank accounts controlled by Baptiste and Legentus, who would retain for their own use and benefit the amount of the inflated tax refund, as well as their fees. On occasion, Legentus and Baptiste would retain the entire tax refund amount for themselves. For example, one of their client’s refunds for approximately $12,000 was stolen in its entirety and deposited into an account controlled by Baptiste and Legentus. When clients would complain to Legentus and Baptiste, they would often be ignored, or lied to, about the status of their tax refund.
Baptiste had previously pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the IRS with respect to claims, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286, and filing false claims with the IRS, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 287. Legentus also pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the IRS with respect to claims, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 286, and filing false claims with the IRS, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 287, and was previously sentenced to 33 months in prison.
Mr. Greenberg commended the investigative efforts of IRS-CI, the Margate Police Department, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and the Florida Department of Financial Regulations. Mr. Greenberg also thanked the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, the Coral Springs Police Department, and the Greenacres Police Department. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Mackenzie Duane and Michael Berger.