Two Miami Tax Preparers and Client Sentenced in Fraudulent Refund Scheme
Three Miami residents were sentenced for their roles in a tax refund scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Special Agent in Charge Kelly R. Jackson of Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Miami Office.
According to the indictment and facts established at his sentencing hearing, Sean Anthony Lopez, 35, of Miami, submitted false personal federal income tax returns claiming $625,320 in fraudulent refunds. Lopez received this refund in connection with his role as a client of an illicit tax preparation business located at 18710 SW 107th Street in Miami. Lopez was sentenced today to serve 30 months in prison. The court also ordered Lopez to pay restitution to the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $695,635.
Lopez’s co-defendants, Claudia Zuloaga, 43, and Sharon Elizabeth Angulo, 49, both of Miami, operated this South Miami-Dade tax preparation business under the names Sterling Executive Associates Inc. and Sterling Executive (Sterling), and assisted Lopez in the preparation of his fraudulent tax returns, as well as numerous other similar false tax returns.
Angulo and Zuloaga were each previously sentenced to serve 60 months in prison. The court also ordered Angulo and Zuloaga to each pay restitution to the U.S. Treasury in the amount of $1,539,873.
According to the indictment and facts established at sentencing, beginning in approximately September 2008 and continuing through September 2012, Zuloaga and Angulo recruited numerous clients, including Lopez, by falsely representing that they could eliminate a substantial portion of their debts by obtaining sizable tax refunds for them. This would be accomplished through false and fraudulent tax returns prepared by Zuloaga and Angulo in exchange for a fee, usually amounting to 30 percent of the fraudulently obtained tax refund. Zuloaga and Angulo were responsible for causing the submission of multiple fraudulent tax returns claiming refunds totaling in excess of $5.4 million. As further established at their sentencing hearings, the IRS was fraudulently induced to issue refund checks in the aggregate amount of $2,305,081, a portion of which was disbursed to Lopez with respect to his fraudulent tax returns.
As further alleged in the indictment and established at their sentencing hearings, the tax returns prepared at Sterling by Zuloaga and Angulo falsely set forth that financial institutions at which the clients maintained accounts withheld sizable amounts of tax from falsely declared interest income, which was falsely claimed as having been earned by the clients. Through this fraudulent mechanism, each return gave the appearance of entitling the client to a significant tax refund due to over-withholding of tax payments in connection with their claimed interest earnings. In addition, in order to provide false substantiation for these fraudulent tax refund claims, the defendants caused fictitious IRS Forms 1099-OID to be created, which set forth the false interest and tax withholding amounts fraudulently reported upon their clients’ tax returns.
It was also established at sentencing hearings that Zuloaga and Angulo promoted the fictitious “redemption theory” to their clients as the purported justification for their fraudulent tax refund claims. Through this promotion, clients were falsely informed that the submission of tax returns in this manner allowed their clients to legitimately access large amounts of money allegedly contained in certain non-existent “straw man” accounts which the defendants claimed were being maintained by the U.S. Treasury for each individual who possessed a social security number.
U.S. Attorney Ferrer and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo commended special agents of IRS – Criminal Investigation, who investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter B. Outerbridge of the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorney Alexander Effendi of the Tax Division, who prosecuted the case.