NEWS, SPORTS, COMMENTARY, POLITICS for Gloucester City and the Surrounding Areas of South Jersey and Philadelphia

Christopher Bittner, age 30 of Mantua, formerly of Gloucester City
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Forgo fraud this tax season: IRS-CI issues tips to protect your wallet, identity  

 

PHILADELPHIA – With filing season officially underway, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) reminds U.S.  taxpayers to take extra steps to protect their identities and wallets when filing their taxes.  Screen Shot 2022-10-27 at 15.13.16

“Beware of dishonest tax return preparers,” said Special Agent in Charge Yury Kruty. “These are tax return taxpayers who disregard their known duty to prepare accurate tax returns on behalf of their clients. Such tax return preparers have no problem putting their clients at risk for a profit.” 

Forgo fraud this filing season

  1. Choose a tax preparer wisely. Look for a preparer who is available year-round. 2. Ask your tax preparer for their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All paid preparers are required to have one.  
  2. Don’t use a ghost preparer. They won’t sign a tax return they prepare for you.  4. Don’t fall victim to tax preparers’ promises of large refunds. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. All taxpayers must pay their fair share of taxes.  
  3. Don’t sign a blank tax return. Taxpayers are ultimately responsible for what appears on tax returns filed with the IRS.  
  4. Make sure you receive your refund. Your refund should be deposited into your bank account,  not your tax preparers.  
  5. The IRS will not call you threatening legal action. If you receive a call like this, hang up, it’s a  scam!  
  6. Don’t respond to or click links in text messages, emails or social media posts claiming to be the  IRS. They may contain malware that could compromise your personal information.  9. Protect your personal and financial information. Never provide this information in response to unsolicited texts, emails or social media posts claiming to be the IRS.  
  7. Report fraud to law enforcement. Submit Form 3949-A, Information Referral, if you suspect an individual or a business is committing fraud.

IRS-CI is the only federal law enforcement agency with authority to investigate violations of the  Internal Revenue Code. In the fiscal year 2022, IRS-CI identified $5.7 billion in tax fraud, initiated 1,388  criminal tax investigations, and obtained 699 criminal sentences for tax crimes.  

Case examples include:  

Scranton, PA tax preparer DONALD ROYCE (hereinafter ROYCE) was sentenced to 46 months in prison, followed by 36 months of probation. He was also ordered to pay $317,132.00 in restitution. ROYCE previously pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax fraud. ROYCE defrauded several local taxpayers.  After providing the victim taxpayers with a “client copy” of their tax return that showed the correct refund amount, ROYCE submitted fraudulent tax returns to the IRS that inflated the refund due. After the IRS sent the refund to ROYCE, he kept the difference between the legitimate refund amount and the higher fraudulent amount for his own personal use. In one case, ROYCE instructed the victim's clients to provide him with their tax payment, and instead of forwarding the payment to the IRS, ROYCE kept it for himself. As a result of ROYCE’S actions, his victims suffered losses over $250,000.

 

GUY MENARD CHARLES (hereinafter MENARD) was sentenced to 24 months in prison after previously having been convicted at trial of 23 counts of fraud and identity theft for filing false federal income tax returns as part of a scheme to fraudulently reduce taxes and inflate the tax refund amounts claimed on tax returns he prepared for his clients. MENARD owned and operated MENARD Tax Services in Florida. A  co-conspirator based in Philadelphia recruited clients for the business and purchased personal identifying information for dependents, which MENARD used on several of the clients’ federal tax returns. In addition to the false dependent information, MENARD also included false income, education credits, and federal fuel tax credits on various returns. MENARD’S actions caused the U.S. Treasury to issue tax refunds to the taxpayers to which they were not entitled. MENARD and his co-conspirator split the preparation fee for their services. 

EPHREM LIJALEM (hereinafter LIJALEM) was sentenced to 36 months in prison after previously pleading guilty to charges of Aiding or Assisting in the Preparation or Filing of False Federal Income Tax  Returns. LIJALEM was also ordered to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $7,225,663. LIJALEM operated Citi Tax Refund stores in Pittsburgh, and he and his return preparers defrauded the IRS out of  $7.2 million in illegal tax refunds generated by filing false Schedule C tax returns with the IRS. The return preparers at the Citi Tax Refund stores owned by LIJALEM regularly filed false  Schedule C’s with the personal income tax returns of customers that represented non-existent businesses, inflated income, and altered expenses to maximize the tax refunds for customers. 

JOHN THORNTON (hereinafter THORNTON) was sentenced to 18 months in prison after previously  pleading guilty to charges of Aiding or Assisting in the Preparation or Filing of False Federal Income Tax  Returns. THORNTON was also ordered to pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of  $511,718. THORNTON owned and operated Tax Centers of America franchises in the Pittsburgh area. Between 2012 and 2017, THORNTON’s preparers generated 1,010 returns, more than half of  which included Schedule C attachments. Investigators uncovered falsification of Schedule C forms  prepared and filed by THORNTON and tax preparers at his business. The fraud cost the IRS $2.4 million  in unauthorized refunds. 

IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime  investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, public corruption, healthcare  fraud, identity theft and more. IRS-CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with  investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, boasting a more than 90 percent  federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attached posts  abroad. 

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