BATON ROUGE – A Rayville man faces 18 felony counts of suspected fraud in his work as a tax preparer.
Donald Ray Jackson, of 114 Spencer Street in Rayville, is accused of filing fraudulent income tax returns containing fabricated business losses. Seven of Jackson’s clients told investigators with the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) that they did not own businesses. Two clients said they did own businesses, but that they did not sustain, or claim to have sustained, any losses.
Jackson’s alleged crimes cost Louisiana taxpayers more than $325,000 in fraudulent income tax refunds.
The fabrication of business losses is a common technique among unscrupulous tax preparers who guarantee their clients larger tax refunds than they would receive otherwise. It is one of the practices targeted by LDR and the state Attorney General’s Office in their joint anti-tax fraud initiative that has resulted in 31 arrests since it began in March 2013.
Jackson was arrested on Friday, August 15 and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on nine counts each of Computer Fraud and Filing or Maintaining False Public Records.
BATON ROUGE – Four separate investigations by the Louisiana Department of Revenue and the state Office of the Attorney General resulted in eight arrests in the month of July for felony tax fraud and uncovered more than $1.4 million in fraudulent refunds and improperly reduced tax liabilities.
“These arrests demonstrate the progress we are making in attacking fraud in Louisiana through our partnership with the Attorney General’s office,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “If these criminals thought of tax fraud as a low-risk, high-reward activity, they’re finding out they were wrong.”
“Tax fraud is not a victimless crime,” Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said. “When a person cheats on their taxes, it puts the most vital services for our citizens at risk.”
Elxzina Granger, of 311 Doc Duhon Street in Lafayette, was arrested on July 16, 2014, and charged with 13 counts each of computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records. Granger, a tax preparer, allegedly fabricated business losses on federal and Louisiana state income tax returns for the 2012 tax year. Clients of Granger’s contacted by investigators said they did not own businesses, and had not provided her with any business-related documentation for their tax filings. Granger’s alleged crime resulted in $45,982 in fraudulent income tax refunds.
In a separate case, tax preparers working for We Care Tax Service at 3101 New Highway 51 in LaPlace are suspected of fabricating business losses for clients. Investigators determined that none of those clients owned a business. The alleged fraud in this case amounts to $1,175,541.
Five tax preparers at We Care Tax Service have been arrested and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison:
- Sara Daspit-Lee, of 125 Oak Ridge Drive in LaPlace, arrested on July 22 and charged with nine counts of filing or maintaining false public records and nine counts of computer fraud
- Emile Lee III, of 125 Oak Ridge Drive in LaPlace, arrested on July 22 and charged with nine counts of filing or maintaining false public records and nine counts of computer fraud
- Johnnae Smith, of 107 4th Street in Chalmette, arrested on July 30 and charged with 11 counts each of computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records
- Bridget Butler, of 2229 Feliciana Street in New Orleans, arrested on July 30 and charged with nine counts each of computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records
- Delecisha Amos-Allen, of 19 Rush Drive in LaPlace, arrested on July 30 and charged with five counts each of computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records
On Friday, July 25, investigators arrested Ashley Clement, of 2316 Ormond Boulevard in Destrehan, and booked her into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. She faces felony charges of fabricating business losses on her own Louisiana individual income tax return. Clement received $2,287 in fraudulent refunds. An additional $4,397 in attempted fraudulent refunds was blocked by the Department of Revenue’s Tax Refund Intercept Program (TRIP). Clement faces one count of theft and one count of attempted theft.
And in a fourth case, Deatrice Garrison Minor, of 1516 Westminster Boulevard in Marrero, was arrested on July 30 and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on six felony counts related to tax fraud. Minor is accused of submitting fraudulent income tax returns on behalf of clients of her business, Divine Vision Boutique & Tax Service, with addresses listed in Lafayette, Gretna and Marrero. Investigators say that along with the improper returns, Minor submitted false W-2 withholding forms with inflated wages and withholding amounts. The clients told investigators that they had never been employed by the individuals and entities listed on the documents, and that they had never given Minor permission to file income tax returns on their behalf. Minor faces one count of injury to public records, one count of illegal transmission of monetary funds, one count of principal to theft, one count of theft, and two counts of attempted theft. The alleged fraud in this case amounts to $36,986 in theft and $136,324 in attempted theft.
BATON ROUGE – Two Louisiana tax preparers face felony charges for filing tax returns that investigators say improperly claimed state tax credits for childcare expenses.
Gwana White, of 308 Devon Road in LaPlace, was arrested on Tuesday, June 17, and charged with computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records.
In an unrelated case, Ericka Lewis, of 929 Starrett Street in Metairie, was arrested also on June 17, and charged with computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records.
White worked as a tax return preparer for Quick, Fast and EZ Tax Service, LLC in LaPlace. Lewis worked for Quick EZ Taxes of Kenner, LLC.
Each is accused of preparing returns for clients containing false information on wages earned and false claims for tax credits for childcare expenses, resulting in fraudulent state individual income tax refunds.
Gwana White’s alleged fraud cost Louisiana taxpayers $13,647.
The alleged fraud in the Ericka Lewis case amounted to $12,643.
BATON ROUGE – A Slidell woman faces two felony counts for payroll tax fraud, the Louisiana Department of Revenue announced Thursday.
Toniko Manning Brown, of 127 Herwig Bluff Road, in Slidell, is the 19th person arrested in a joint anti-tax fraud initiative by the Department of Revenue and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office.
Brown, owner of Little Beautiful Minds, a child care provider in Metairie, is accused of failing to remit to the State of Louisiana $39,246.94 that she withheld from employees’ paychecks from 2007 to 2014. She was arrested on Tuesday, May 27, and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on charges of Injuring Public Records (La. R.S. §14:132) and Criminal Penalty for Failing to Account for State Tax Monies (La. R.S. §47:1641).
BATON ROUGE – A New Orleans woman faces five felony counts related to tax fraud, the Louisiana Department of Revenue announced Monday.
Charnell R. Haymond, of 6921 Bunker Hill Road, New Orleans, is the 18th person arrested under a joint anti-fraud initiative of the Department of Revenue and the Louisiana Office of the Attorney General.
Haymond is accused of filing false state individual income tax returns and collecting $22,208 in fraudulent refunds. She is charged with theft, identity theft, computer fraud, monetary instrument abuse, and injuring public records.
BATON ROUGE – A New Orleans woman faces charges of defrauding the State of Louisiana of more than $900,000 through the filing of false tax returns, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) announced Thursday.
Kenshika Sade Jiles, of 5209 Spain Street in New Orleans, was arrested by investigators from the Louisiana Department of Justice (DOJ) on April 16 and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. She faces two felony counts of computer fraud and injuring public records.
Investigators say Jiles, owner of S&A Tax Service, prepared and submitted tax returns containing false information including phony business expenses, unreimbursed employee expenses and improper child care tax credit claims. Her alleged actions resulted in $923,751 in unpaid taxes and fraudulent refunds.
Jiles is the 17th person arrested since March 2013 under an anti-fraud initiative by the Department of Revenue and state Department of Justice.
BATON ROUGE – A Bossier Parish tax preparer faces felony charges related to tax fraud, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) announced Wednesday.
Marie Kemp, known also as Marie Devers, of 430 Kingston Road in Benton, was arrested in Bossier City on April 3, 2014, and transported to Baton Rouge on April 7, where she was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.
Kemp is the 16th person arrested under a joint anti-fraud initiative by the Department of Revenue and the Louisiana Department of Justice (DOJ). She faces 21 counts of identity theft, computer fraud, and filing or maintaining false public records.
Kemp is accused of falsifying tax returns filed through Marie’s Tax Service, a tax preparation business with two locations in Bossier City. She allegedly inflated income tax refunds for her clients by improperly claiming the state’s Child Care Expense Tax Credit. Investigators contacted the providers listed on the falsified returns, who denied providing the services.
“The abuse of state tax credits is fraud,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “This anti-fraud initiative helps to ensure valuable programs such as the Child Care Expense Tax Credit remain available for those who need them.”
BATON ROUGE – A joint initiative of the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) and the Attorney General’s office to prevent fraud committed by tax preparers has yielded numerous arrests and identified millions of dollars in potentially fraudulent income tax refunds.
The investigative focus on tax preparers has resulted in ten arrests since it began less than a year ago in March 2013. All such cases involve a total of $1.8 million in fraudulent refunds to date.
The LDR Taxpayer Refund Intercept Program (TRIP) analyzes income tax refunds as they are processed. When TRIP unit analysts observe suspicious patterns, they investigate to determine if fraud is involved.
The most recent TRIP arrests focus on alleged fraud connected to Quick Tax, a tax preparation business with locations in Baton Rouge and Baker. Ebony C. Martin, of 17424 Airline Highway in Prairieville, was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Monday, October 7, 2013; Shantel Banks, of 8441 Betty Smothers Avenue in Baton Rouge, was arrested on Tuesday, October 8; and Alfreda Walker, of 4912 Longfellow Drive in Baton Rouge, was arrested on Thursday, October 10. All three face felony counts including theft, computer fraud, tax evasion and filing or maintaining false public records.
“According to the arrest warrants, the suspects prepared tax returns with phony business loss information that resulted in fraudulently large income tax refunds for their clients,” said Barry Kelly, director of the LDR Criminal Investigations Division.
The alleged criminal activity in the Quick Tax case involved $210,422 in fraudulent refunds.
In an unrelated case this month, Lawrence James Richard of 12535 Arnold Road in Walker was arrested on October 3, 2013, on charges of tax evasion and failure to file. He is accused of failing to report income to the state in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
|BATON ROUGE – By the time the Taxpayer Refund Intercept Program (TRIP) singled out yet another tax return prepared by Innovative Professional Financial Services, Inc. (or IP Financial Services), a distinct pattern began to emerge. The Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) uses the TRIP program to monitor and carefully analyze tax returns as they are processed through their system. Unusually large refunds were rising to the top from returns prepared by IP Financial Services. Taxpayers who had their tax returns prepared by this firm were contacted by LDR to verify their income, taxes paid, and taxes withheld. The results confirmed the suspicion. Numerous discrepancies were identified, and a scam was discovered.
IP Financial Services president John Labee promised taxpayers that he was capable of finding new tax credits and write-offs that would greatly reduce a taxpayer’s liability and increase their refund. For the average cost of $500, he advertised he could discover hidden deductions and raise refund amounts in ways other preparers could not. Many taxpayers believed him – to their loss.
Labee created fake W-2 forms that reported false wages and payments to LDR that were never made. He overstated tax withholdings and falsified documents in an attempt to trick the computer system with such an elaborate process that taxpayers were unaware of his tactics. By claiming deductions not permitted by both the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and LDR, the refunds he tabulated and transmitted to LDR were ultimately found to be merely a ploy against his customers who were the ones that were forced to reconcile the amount they actually owed LDR with the amount Labee said they were owed by LDR.
When contacted by angry taxpayers regarding the discrepancies on their returns, Labee provided them with checks written to LDR with which to pay their tax liabilities. 52 of those checks were returned for nonsufficient funds (NSF). Labee was arrested in September 2011 and charged with Filing and Maintaining False Public Records (La. R.S. 14:133) and Issuing Worthless Checks (La. R.S. 14:71). He pleaded guilty on August 19 in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge to six felony counts of issuing worthless checks. He was ordered to pay $82,000 in restitution and faces a maximum 60 years in prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 17, 2013.
Additional charges from federal prosecutors are pending against Labee, including 9 counts of aiding or assisting in preparation of false documents; 2 counts of making false statements on income tax returns; 1 count of attempted mail fraud; and 1 count of making false declarations before a grand jury.
A New Focus on Fraud
When this case came to the attention of Louisiana Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield, he began to work with LDR’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) for ways to combat this type of fraud. Data revealed that an increase in the number of tax preparers completing fraudulent returns on behalf of taxpayers was on the rise. A shift in focus was ordered that would target tax preparers who opened businesses only to illegally profit from the trust of taxpayers.
In partnership with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, in March 2013, LDR officials detailed two commissioned criminal investigators to the LDR staff. These law enforcement officers are housed in the Louisiana Department of Justice (DOJ) and work with DOJ staff.
“This addition to our staff and our partnership with the Attorney General’s office has strengthened one of the core competencies of our department,” LDR Secretary Tim Barfield said. “We are charged by the taxpayers of this state to protect their interests and focus on tax fraud and similar issues. The investment in these law enforcement personnel is already paying off.
Last week, six other tax preparers were arrested on charges ranging from filing false public records to fraud:
“Louisiana will not tolerate fraud, whether committed by pharmaceutical companies or by fraudulent tax return preparers who are stealing from their clients and from the state. We are committed to partnering with the Department of Revenue and other state agencies to track down these lawbreakers and recover the state’s funds,” stated Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.
Secretary Barfield intends to strengthen and dedicate more personnel and resources to fraud detection that will ultimately provide direct benefit to Louisiana taxpayers.
“The widespread abuse by tax preparers should serve as a warning to taxpayers across the state,” Barfield said. “Do not trust someone who promises something that sounds too good to be true. Make sure you have done your homework on who prepares your tax returns.”
Barry Kelly, LDR’s Criminal Investigations Division (CID) director, plans to expand the scope of future investigations. “There will be more arrests as we continue to aggressively move forward,” Kelly said. “We hope to discover everyone who commits tax fraud – especially those who put themselves forward as servants of the public trust. This is our stewardship to the people of Louisiana, and we will do it well.”
How to Select a Tax Preparer:
If you are going to pay someone to do your tax return, be sure to choose your tax preparer wisely. Remember that you are legally responsible for what is on your tax returns even if they are prepared by someone else. So, it is important to find a qualified tax professional.
Be sure to:
Traits of a reputable preparer:
BATON ROUGE – Recent actions by the US Congress regarding the fiscal cliff legislation, known as the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), delayed the date when Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax returns may be filed. Today, January 30, is the first day when federal income returns will be accepted. The Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) will also begin to receive income tax returns today.
The majority of IRS tax returns are now filed electronically. In 2012, 80 percent of all federal tax returns were filed electronically, fulfilling a goal Congress set in 1998. Since 2007, the number of Louisiana taxpayers filing their taxes electronically has risen by 58 percent. In 2011, 1.6 million Louisiana taxpayers (82 percent of the total number of Louisiana taxpayers) e-filed filed their state income tax return.
With the increase in electronic filing, tax fraud has skyrocketed. At the federal level, tax fraud remains the third largest theft of federal funds (just behind Medicare/Medicaid and unemployment insurance fraud) and has risen to a record 1.1 million cases in 2011. With the rise in electronic filing of Louisiana state income tax returns, state tax fraud has also increased. Tax fraud cases in Louisiana directly discovered as a result of current theft protection measures have risen to almost 23,000 cases in 2012.
LDR has taken steps to prevent e-filing fraud in coordination with the IRS. When current Executive Counsel, Tim Barfield and Chief of Staff Jarrod Coniglio first arrived at the agency late in 2012, a priority was placed on protecting the public from tax fraud with the installation and integration of new fraud protection software.
“When I first saw the data and the growing possibility for millions of dollars to be stolen from the state of Louisiana, we wanted to put in measures that would immediately maximize LDR’s efficiency to prevent tax fraud,” Barfield said.
LDR worked during December 2012/January 2013 to develop a customized Louisiana-specific fraud protection computer interface. The new system required a significant testing phase to assure accuracy of the system, protect taxpayer identity, and secure all confidential taxpayer information.
All state income tax returns received on or after January 30, 2013, will be subject to identity verification through the new tax protection software. The first taxpayer returns will be processed February 15, 2013. Refunds will begin to be issued on February 26, 2013.
If a return is identified as questionable in the review process, the taxpayer will then be directed to a customized online data test or a telephone survey that will serve as a secure method to verify the identity and final certification of the return.
“We are confident this new system will help protect the public trust against tax fraud,” Barfield stated. “Our goal is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of this agency as we serve Louisiana taxpayers during the tax season.”