Former Vancouver, Washington, Tax Return Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Assisting in Filing False Tax Documents
Defendant Preyed on Immigrant Community, Filing Falsified Deductions and Credits so She Could Claim a Share of Larger Tax Refund
A Camas, Washington, tax preparer, who now lives in Vancouver, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma to a month in prison for assisting in filing false tax documents, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. PAULA ODIA, 44, prepared nearly 80 fraudulent tax returns, resulting in a tax loss to the U.S. that the government estimates is $254,191. Most of ODIA’s clients were unaware she had falsified their tax returns or that she directed a portion of their tax refund to her bank account or to accounts belonging to members of her family. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan said “This went on for a long time…. Theft is theft – You can’t steal from the government any more than you can from anybody else.”
“Many of the people who were betrayed by this defendant were undocumented-immigrants who paid taxes on their income despite their illegal status,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “Ms. Odia thought she had the perfect fraud – steal from those who she believed would never go to the police to report the crime. I commend the IRS for its diligent efforts to ensure this defendant is held accountable for her actions.”
According to records filed in the case, between 2011 and 2016, ODIA prepared federal income taxes for customers from her Camas home. Clients would bring ODIA their records, and she would prepare and file their taxes. In 2011, ODIA began claiming illegitimate deductions and credits in her clients’ tax returns. These false deductions and credits reduced the clients’ tax obligations and increased the tax refund. ODIA then diverted a portion of that refund to bank accounts that she or members of her family controlled. When ODIA provided copies of the tax returns to clients, these copies did not reflect what ODIA actually filed with the IRS so that the clients would not see that some of the refund had been directed to ODIA’s accounts.
ODIA pleaded guilty in October 2017. She agreed to pay restitution to the U.S. Treasury of $254,191. Judge Bryan ordered one year of supervised release to follow the prison term.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sidharth Velamoor.