On April 18, 2018, Ana Bajo, a California resident, pleaded guilty in the Northern District of California to conspiring to file fraudulent claims for more than $9.7 million in refunds by obtaining the personal information of others and filing more than 2,300 fraudulent income tax returns with her co-conspirators. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) paid over more than $7.5 million as a result of the scheme. Bajo now faces a maximum of ten years in prison, plus supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties. Her sentencing is scheduled for September 26, 2018.
On March 5, 2018, a former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee, Pamela Pringle, was sentenced in the Eastern District of California for "making opportunities for persons to defraud the United States and for making and subscribing false returns." While employed by the IRS, Pringle prepared and filed income tax returns for other individuals that included false deductions, and in several years she also filed fraudulent tax returns for herself, claiming deductions to which she was not entitled. Pringle entered a guilty plea in November 2017 and will spend 5 months in prison, then 36 months under supervised release, including 5 months of home confinement; she was also ordered to pay $56,857 in restitution.
The Department of Justice has permanently barred a Southern California tax preparer from preparing federal returns for others, following a complaint filed by the government that the tax professional had been filing returns claiming a total of more than $9 million in fraudulent refunds since at least 2009. She agreed to the injunction and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims, tax evasion, and aggravated identity theft.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) kicked off its annual "Dirty Dozen" awareness campaign about common tax scams for 2018 with a reminder that phishing schemes are still a serious threat to personal information safety, and are evolving. The most recent variation on phishing (previously described here) involves an unexpected deposit into the bank account of a target. Criminals are filing fraudulent tax returns, and directing refunds to be deposited into real bank accounts of victims. The criminals then call the victim who received the deposit and demand the return of the funds as erroneous.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning taxpayers about a new, multi-layer scam this tax season: erroneous refunds. Criminals are filing fraudulent returns to get money deposited into victims' accounts using data stolen from tax professionals, then posing as debt collection agency officials to request that the victims "return" the money due to an error. Other victims are receiving recorded messages threatening the taxpayer with criminal fraud charges and other consequences if the erroneous refund is not returned.
Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino, who formerly appeared on the reality TV series "The Jersey Shore," pleaded guilty to a charge of tax evasion for years in which he concealed a portion of his income to avoid paying the full amount of taxes owed. Sorrentino's brother, Marc, also pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding in the preparation of a fraudulent tax return for underreporting income and providing his tax return preparers with false information.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released the fiscal year 2017 annual report for its Criminal Investigation Division (CI). During FY 2017, CI initiated over 3,000 cases concerning Title 18 and Title 31 crimes, with 72.5% of its investigation time spent on tax matters such as refund fraud, identity theft, abusive tax schemes, and cyber crimes. Its investigations identified $2.5 billion in funds related to tax fraud, and the division had a 91.5% overall conviction rate.
No one is beyond the certainty of taxes, as a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, California, discovered last week. Hien Minh Nguyen was sentenced to 36 months in prison for taking cash and checks donated to the Diocese by parishioners and depositing them into his personal bank account to pay for personal expenses. The court found that the priest embezzled a total of $1.4 million from the Catholic Church and, by concealing the embezzlement from his return preparer, evaded over $500,000 in income taxes owed to the IRS.
A group of private business owners have filed suit in a dispute with the IRS over reimbursement for their involvement in a sting operation to identify people filing fraudulent tax returns. "I think it is unusual for the IRS to use a private business in a sting operation," Betty Williams wrote. "If the plaintiffs are not made whole, this is simply a very sad story." Learn more in the Northern California Record, here.
The IRS recently alerted employers to a dangerous new e-mail phishing scam involving false requests for payroll information made through "spoof" accounts. This scam "can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.