United States Attorney Announces Conviction, Sentencing Of Evansville-area Tax Preparer
EVANSVILLE – Joseph H. Hogsett, the United States Attorney, announced today that Steve W. Pirnat, age 61, of Evansville, has been convicted and sentenced to 37 months in federal prison after admitting that he conspired for three years to submit false tax claims to the Internal Revenue Service. All told, the scheme cost taxpayers more than $222,000 in fraudulent tax refunds.
“This scheme didn’t just target unsuspecting people in the Evansville area – in this case, every Hoosier taxpayer was a victim of fraud,” Hogsett said. “That is why we are working with our law enforcement partners to aggressively combat this culture of corruption. We owe it to those who play by the rules to hold fully accountable those who try and fleece the system.”
From 2009 until 2011, Pirnat provided tax preparation services in Vanderburgh County, charging a fee for his services. According to court documents, Pirnat was not a registered tax preparer with the Internal Revenue Service and did not have an identification number that would allow him to file tax returns on behalf of other people. Instead, Pirnat would file the tax returns he prepared and classify them as self-prepared. In this way, it would appear to the IRS that no tax professional was involved in preparing the returns.
On July 26, 2011, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division received a complaint from a taxpayer who had retained Pirnat to prepare her tax returns for 2009 and 2010. The taxpayer had received an audit notice from the IRS in June of 2011 notifying her that she needed to provide information to support her claim that she had a dependent as listed on her 2010 tax return. The taxpayer did not have any dependents, and was not aware that any dependent had been listed on her tax return. The copy of the return that Pirnat provided to her did not list a dependent.
The taxpayer contacted Pirnat about the audit and the defendant offered to deal with the IRS on her behalf. The taxpayer met with Pirnat in person and decided to record her conversation with him due to her concerns about the situation. At the meeting, the defendant gave the taxpayer an amended 2010 return without a dependent on it for the victim to file, and explained that he had falsified her tax return to “help out a lady he knew.”
IRS records showed that the taxpayer was issued a total refund related to her 2010 return in the amount of $5,633 and that the refund was split up and deposited into more than one account. Only $1,815 was deposited into the taxpayer’s bank account. The $1,815 refund amount was the amount listed on the copy of the tax return that Pirnat gave to the victim. The remaining $3,818 of the refund was electronically deposited into a bank account controlled by Pirnat.
After receiving the taxpayer’s complaint, an investigation by the IRS revealed a pattern of tax filings from Pirnat’s computer that contained fraudulent dependent information. The total amount of fraudulent refunds generated through Pirnat’s scheme was calculated to be $222,740 by IRS auditors.
IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, James Lee stated, “IRS Criminal Investigation focuses on protecting revenue by identifying, investigating, and recommending prosecution of abusive return preparers like Mr. Pirnat. Mr. Pirnat was sentenced to 37 months in prison for his role in conspiring to submit false claims and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns. With tax season quickly approaching, this sentence should send a message to the unscrupulous tax preparers thinking of engaging in such activity, this activity will not be tolerated.” Furthermore, Special Agent in Charge James Lee wanted to warn taxpayers that they should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd S. Shellenbarger, who prosecuted the case for the government, Pirnat was ordered to fully repay the loss to taxpayers, and must serve three years of federally-supervised release at the end of his prison term. Under federal law, the defendant is required to serve at least 85% of his prison term within a federal correctional facility.