Posts Tagged ‘BozoTaxPreparer’

Truth In Advertising Isn’t Always a Good Idea

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

There are laws mandating that advertisements be accurate. Sometimes, though, you can get in trouble for being ‘truthful.’ Michael Raymond Martinez of Fullerton, California did himself no favors by his advertisements.

Mr. Martinez was a tax professional in Fullerton (Orange County), and he advertised, “The Largest Refund…Guaranteed!!!” And he did give his clients very large refunds. It’s how Mr. Martinez operated that was the cause of trouble. Mr. Martinez met with his clients, picked up their documents, received his payment, and then prepared their returns. Nothing out of the ordinary with that.

However, he didn’t have his clients review the returns. So how could clients sign the returns if they hadn’t reviewed them? That was definitely an issue. Of course, given that Mr. Martinez invented false deductions and expenses for his clients (all of which lowered their tax liability), he likely did get his clients “The Largest Refund[s].” Illegal, of course.

Unfortunately, the IRS caught on to the scheme. Indeed, that was inevitable from the start. Sooner or later a client would look at the transcript of his return and see moving expenses when they hadn’t moved, education deductions when they weren’t in college, or phony itemized deductions and wonder what was going on. Given the tax loss to the IRS was $1,155,006, this was going to get some attention. There was one other matter: Mr. Martinez didn’t bother to report his income from preparing those returns for 2011 and 2012; oops.

Mr. Martinez was sentenced last week to 21 months at ClubFed. He’ll also have to make restitution of $205,465 to the IRS.

“celebritytaxguy” Soon to be at ClubFed

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

Michael Joseph Calalang Cabuhat had been living the good life. He had a nice house in the Hollywood Hills (of Los Angeles) and drove a Ferrari 360 Spider. Mr. Cabuhat owned a tax practice in Glendale (near Los Angeles) and called himself “celebritytaxguy.”

I will be the first to state that you can make a nice living from a tax practice. Mr. Cabuhat’s methods, though, were on the illegal side. He pleaded guilty to defrauding clients of more than $1.2 million, and will have 46 months at ClubFed to think that over. He also must make restitution of $1,496,416 and will be sending the government just over $426,000 from the sale of his home (and the car).

What did Mr. Cabuhat do? He had two methods of bilking clients but they all had a basis in preparing two returns for each client (and I’m not talking about state returns). In some cases Mr. Cabuhat prepared a return showing a small refund, and gave that return to the client. The small refund amount was duly deposited into the client’s account. However, the actual return filed with the IRS showed a larger refund, with that extra amount being deposited into a bank account controlled by Mr. Cabuhat.

His other method was to prepare a return showing an amount due; however, the return filed with the IRS showed a refund (with that refund being deposited into his account). He also had the clients make the tax payment to him, so that those funds, too, would be absconded.

And of course, Mr. Cabuhat didn’t report the $1.2 million he pocketed from the fraud on his own tax return. And, yes, Mr. Cabuhat had a license from the California Tax Education Council (all California tax professionals are required to have a license, either be an EA, CPA, attorney, or obtain the license from CTEC). As I’ve said before, having a license won’t stop tax preparers from committing crimes.

As for the crime itself, it was guaranteed to be discovered in the long run. Sooner or later a client would be audited or obtain a transcript of his return, and it wouldn’t match the return copy that the client had. Or even the IRS might wonder why 150 tax refunds were all deposited into the same bank account.

As noted in the press release from the Department of Justice,

…Judge Walter said Cabuhat’s scheme was “vicious” because it led to both financial and emotional harm to his victim-clients. Judge Walter noted that the stolen money was used simply to enhance Cabuhat’s lifestyle, allowing him to obtain a big house and a fancy car “all on the backs of these individuals who placed their trust” in Cabuhat.

Mr. Cabuhat will have nearly four years to think this all over.

As Relieable as You Might Have Thought

Sunday, October 9th, 2016

That is not a typographical error in the headline. Yes, I meant to type, “Relieable.” Why? Because of a story of a Tampa, Florida tax professional who was as relieable, err, reliable as the headline.

Donna Demps was found guilty of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Here’s what the DOJ press release states:

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Demps formed the Florida corporation “D&D Honest Relieable [sic] Tax Services LLC.” She then used the corporation to open bank accounts into which she electronically transferred tax refunds obtained by stealing the identities of real people, many of whom were veterans, disabled, elderly, or otherwise unable to care for themselves. Demps never registered her tax preparation service with the Internal Revenue Service since she would have had to reveal that she was an eight-time convicted felon. Through her bank accounts, Demps stole more than $120,000 over a one-year period.

So we have someone opening up a corporation ending in “LLC” (limited liability companies are not corporations), with a misspelling of ‘reliable,’ and then stealing identities. There’s not much to add here, except that Ms. Demps will likely be spending quite a bit of time at ClubFed.

Once Bitten, Twice Not Shy

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Back in 2013, Cedric K. Oliphant was convicted of falsifying a tax return.

Specifically, during his plea hearing today [August 30, 2013], Oliphant admitted he knowingly and willfully included materially false deductions for gifts to charity and for unreimbursed business expenses a client’s 2007 tax return. This tax return alone caused a loss to the U.S. Treasury in the approximate amount of $11,261.

Oliphant also admitted he had knowingly and willfully prepared and filed dozens more false federal income tax returns for other clients for tax years 2006 through 2008 that generated excessive refunds and cause aggregate losses to the IRS of totaling approximately $325,000.

Mr. Oliphant was released on bond awaiting sentencing. A condition of his release was that he stop preparing tax returns. I’m sure you’re ahead of me.

He was sentenced back in 2014:

In handing down the sentence today, Judge Harmon noted that Oliphant had prepared hundreds more tax returns with deductions similar to those described in the plea agreement indicating that actual losses to the National Treasury could be as much as $1 million.

Oliphant had been previously released on bond. However, that bond was revoked when it was determined he violated the conditions of his release by continuing to prepare tax returns after conviction. At that bond hearing on April 10, 2014, evidence demonstrated Oliphant had prepared and electronically filed at least 463 client tax returns during the 2014 filing season.

Fast forward to August 26, 2016 (just a week or so ago); Mr. Oliphant was released from prison. Mr. Oliphant’s troubles apparently weren’t behind him. Remember the accusation of preparing returns when he shouldn’t have been? The US Department of Justice alleges it was quite a bit more than that.

Oliphant had been previously charged and later convicted of preparing dozens of false 2006-08 client tax returns as part of his business – Oliphant Tax Services. He had been permitted to remain on bond during that time under a condition that he have no involvement in the preparation of tax returns other than his own. However, according to the new indictment, Oliphant continued to claim the same false deductions for unsuspecting clients while awaiting sentencing on the previous case.

As part of the scheme, the indictment alleges he changed the name of business to “Tax Services” to allegedly make it appear he had stopped preparing client tax returns and that someone else was the owner of his tax preparation business. Oliphant allegedly attributed the fees to the nominal owner of his tax office but manipulated those tax returns to make it appear the tax office had produced almost no taxable income.

But that’s not all. Mr. Oliphant allegedly used nominees to conceal what was going on:

The indictment also alleges Oliphant established a series of bank accounts in the names of others – including minors with custodians other than himself – so the fees could first be deposited to accounts in the names of the nominal owner of his tax office and others. He then allegedly transferred those fees through these intermediate accounts to accounts in his own name. This scheme enabled Oliphant to conceal his personal use of the fees generated by the business during the course of the prosecution on the first case, according to the charges.

The business allegedly generated $2 million in fees and a total loss to the IRS of another $400,000 or more as charged in the new indictment. As part of the his plea agreement in the earlier case, the losses from those false tax returns exceeded $325,000.

If you sign an agreement not to do something—especially if that agreement is with the government—it’s a very good idea to not do that something. And if you do that something, it’s a good idea to be on the up and up; you know you’re being watched. If these allegations are true, Mr. Oliphant might be heading right back to ClubFed.

Well, He Did Make At Least One Payroll Tax Payment

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

As an Enrolled Agent, I know that if I have employees and collect payroll tax for the employees, I had better remit it to the IRS (and state tax agencies). When I’ve been the employer, I’ve done that without fail. A CPA in Utah is alleged to do that once in twelve years. He’s also alleged to have not paid his personal income taxes for eight years.

David Bybee of Kaysville, Utah is alleged to have run several businesses. The IRS supposedly wanted him to remit his income taxes for eight years from 2000 – 2009 (2003 and 2004 were paid). The US Department of Justice was called in when the IRS couldn’t get anywhere. Mr. Bybee was indicted; he allegedly “…took steps to conceal and attempt to conceal the nature, extent and location of his assets from the IRS to avoid paying the taxes.”

I’ve repeated numerous times over the4 years that if you want to get in trouble with the IRS the easiest way is to simply not remit payroll taxes. From the DOJ press release:

A second count of attempt to evade and defeat payment of tax relates to efforts the indictment alleges Bybee took to evade paying payroll taxes to the federal government on behalf of the employees of three companies he controlled from about April 30, 2000, to about March 14, 2011. Bybee deducted and collected payroll taxes totaling at least $39,244.49 but did not report the payroll taxes with the exception of one employment tax payment of $899.32 in April 2012. Bybee was determined to be responsible for the payroll taxes and was assessed penalties totaling $47,919.06 for the unpaid taxes. According to the indictment, he has failed to make any payments.

Mr. Bybee is also accused of not remitting all the federal income tax that was withheld to the IRS. In all, a trifecta of trouble for a CPA.

Once again, you may notice that we have an individual who should absolutely know the rules on remitting taxes. And once again you may notice that we have an individual who didn’t follow through on those rules. Licensing tax professional will get rid of the lowest of bad hanging fruit, but it won’t stop bad people from behaving badly.

What Part of “Permanent Injunction” Didn’t You Understand?

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

Last September, Gerardo Herrera found himself the target of the IRS and the US Department of Justice. Mr. Herrera owned a tax preparation business, El Lobo Multiservicios Professionales Inc. in Colorado. According to the indictment issued last September, Mr. Herrera and his business invented dependents, claimed personal expenses as business expenses, and added phony deductions. The DOJ press release notes that the IRS audited more than 200 of their returns and found misrepresentations on more than 99 percent of them.

It reads like “normal” return preparer fraud.

Come January, a federal court issued a permanent injunction:

A federal court has permanently barred a Colorado man and his tax preparation business from preparing federal tax returns, the Justice Department announced today. The United States filed a civil complaint against Gerardo Herrera and his business, El Lobo Multiservicios Professionales Inc., contending that they fraudulently reduced their customers’ tax liabilities by reporting extra dependents and claiming bogus deductions. After the defendants failed to respond to the complaint, on Jan. 7, 2016, Judge John L. Kane entered an order permanently banning Herrera from preparing returns.

Again, what you would expect. Mr. Herrera was told to stop preparing returns and to turn over his customer list (he had 45 days to do that).

He didn’t do either. He continued to prepare returns and he didn’t supply his customer list. If a federal court orders you to stop doing something, you don’t get a choice (other than the right to appeal that decision).

The injunction also directed Herrera to provide a list of his customers to the United States, notify his customers of the injunction and file a sworn statement attesting that he had complied within 45 days of the injunction. The United States asked the court to hold Herrera in contempt for his failure to comply with these provisions and alleged that he continued to operate two tax preparation offices and/or assist others in operating the offices. After hearing testimony from two Internal Revenue Service (IRS) witnesses who had visited Herrera’s offices, Judge Kane found Herrera in contempt and ordered that he be held in custody until he purges his contempt by, among other things, notifying all his prior customers of the permanent injunction, providing a list of his customers to the United States, surrendering his Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and posting a copy of the injunction in his place of business.

Mr. Herrera is being held at ClubFed until he closes his business and complies with the injunction. Mr. Herrera earned one other thing: He’s the first nominee for the 2016 Tax Offender of the Year Award! Congratulations!

The Liberty to Commit Tax Fraud

Sunday, January 31st, 2016

There are thousands of tax professionals. These range from the huge firms such as H&R Block to mom and pop outfits. The professionals range from Enrolled Agents, CPAs, and tax attorneys to those who have just put up a sign saying that they’re “professionals.”

Liberty Tax Service is one of the huge chains. They have employees dressed up like the Statue of Liberty outside of their locations. According to the IRS and Department of Justice, a Liberty Tax franchisee in metro Detroit took quite a few liberties with tax law.

Craig Comer operates five Liberty Tax Service locations near Detroit. If the complaint lodged by the US Department of Justice is correct, the five franchise locations did the usual illegal things to increase refunds:

According to the complaint, the defendants prepare income tax returns for customers that fraudulently overstate refunds and claim refundable credits by, among other things, claiming false or inflated Schedule C income and expenses, bogus dependents, false filing statuses, improper education credits and false itemized deductions. Based on audit adjustments the IRS has made to tax returns prepared and filed by the defendants for 2008 to 2013, the defendants’ conduct has cost the U.S. Treasury approximately $4.5 million for those years alone, according to the suit.

There are also allegations of forging customer signatures, changing returns that customers have already signed, committed fraud with the Earned Income Credit, and violated IRS PTIN (Practitioner Tax Identification Number) requirements. All tax professionals who prepare tax returns for money are required to put their PTIN on every tax return they file. The government is alleging that this wasn’t done by this franchisee.

This story does show two things. First, requiring every tax professional to obtain a license won’t stop tax fraud. The alleged fraud here was started by an individual with a PTIN, someone who assuredly could obtain the former RTRP designation or the current AFSP “seal of approval.” Second, the Department of Justice news release notes, “In the past decade, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against hundreds of unscrupulous tax preparers.” This is absolutely true, and the DOJ should be commended for their work. It also shows that licensing every tax professional isn’t needed to get rid of unscrupulous ones.

Monsters Under the Bed

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Two Florida tax preparers (I hesitate to use the word “professionals” based on what they’re accused of) are facing a lawsuit from the Department of Justice seeking a civil injunction to prevent them from owning a tax preparation firm and preparing returns for others. This lawsuit is derived from other lawsuits against individuals related to LBS Tax Services.

It seems that Christopher Lawrence and Kenneth Aikens, proprietors of “Tax Mon$Ter” and “Tax Pros,” are accused of doing many of the practices that bad preparers use to get bad refunds: false earned income tax credit, incorrect filing status, phony businesses, fake unreimbursed business expenses, and one that we don’t see that often: unconscionable fees. From the DOJ press release:

According to the complaint, Lawrence and Aikens target primarily low-income customers with deceptive and misleading advertisements, prepare and file fraudulent tax returns to fraudulently increase their customers’ refunds and profit through unconscionable, exorbitant and often undisclosed fees—all at the expense of their customers and the U.S. Treasury.

There are two main points to realize from this story. First, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. If your tax “professional” is promising you a huge refund but something doesn’t sound right, there likely is something wrong. Second, the IRS has methods today to go after bad tax professionals. Suppose I start inventing deductions and credits, adding phony dependents, and otherwise abuse the system, the IRS can come after me. Even unlicensed tax professionals can be gone after–and it appears that’s the case here.

Fake Businesses, Phony Dependents: What Could Go Wrong?

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

I’ve seen reports of Bozo tax preparers inventing deductions and dependents. This is the first time I’ve heard of a tax preparer inventing a business from scratch on a tax return. The results were good…for a while.

Ramona Johnson was the manager of Tax Office One in Fort Worth, Texas; her daughter-in-law, Nekia Everson, was a tax preparer. From 2008 through 2011 the business earned in $1.9 million in fees, so it was producing a good amount of revenue. And they were probably getting good refunds for their clients. After all, they did the “normal” things for Bozo tax preparers; phony dependents and itemized deductions for personal expenses were the norm (so that taxpayers would qualify for the Earned Income Credit). But then:

On some returns, Johnson and Everson would completely fabricate a Schedule C business, including income and expense items. For some taxpayers, Johnson would create a false and fraudulent Schedule C reflecting the taxpayers had a profit from a nonexistent business. This false profit, together with claimed dependents (both fraudulent and actual), would be used to claim the taxpayer was entitled to an earned income tax credit.

Of course, while they had gross receipts of $1.9 million, somehow the gross receipts didn’t make it onto the personal tax returns. Ms. Johnson neglected to include tax preparation income on her 2009 and 2010 returns:

In addition, the government presented evidence that for calendar years 2009 and 2010, Johnson filed tax returns in which she reported total income of $2,850 and $16,906, respectively, when she well knew that the income amount was understated in that it did not include income she received for her work preparing tax returns.

Ms. Johnson and Ms. Everson will have plenty of time to think about whether preparing accurate tax returns would have been a better strategy. Ms. Johnson will be at ClubFed for 170 months (over 14 years); Ms. Everson will be there for 95 months (just under 8 years).

For taxpayers the usual rules apply: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

From Owning a Party Mansion to Partying at ClubFed

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

Claude Verbal II wasn’t the most well liked owner of a home in North Raleigh, North Carolina. It seems that the 15,000 square foot mansion wasn’t used as a home; rather, it was a place to PARTY! To be fair, the parties appear to have been operated by Mr. Verbal’s ex-wife, Pamela Verbal. The local HOA probably has nothing to worry about as far as any additional parties. Besides an injunction issued by a local court, Mr. Verbal will need to sell the mansion (if it hasn’t already been sold).

You see, Mr. Verbal pleaded guilty earlier this year to a $6,460,962 tax and health care fraud scheme. He was sentenced last week to 135 months (11 years and 3 months) at ClubFed along with full restitution for one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of aiding and assisting the preparation of false tax returns, one count of healthcare fraud, and one count of money laundering.

In the tax fraud scheme, Mr. Verbal owned a tax preparation franchise with ten locations in North Carolina. Mr. Verbal and his employees offered customers a unique bonus system: If the return was falsified and the client paid cash, he would get a much larger refund. Mr. Verbal and his employees utilized familiar methods: fake dependents and phony credits. Mr. Verbal bought stolen identities so his scheme could continue.

It’s how the scheme was uncovered that makes this quite interesting. From the DOJ press release:

In November 2010, one of Verbal’s employees informed a U.S. probation officer of the fraudulent practices at NBT’s location on Fayetteville Street. The probation officer informed Verbal of this fraud and he falsely denied knowledge of it. Afterward, Verbal took steps to keep the profitable Fayetteville Street location open and to continue operating as usual, but to also further distance himself from the fraudulent practices. In order to do this, Verbal transferred the electronic filing privileges for that NBT branch to a nominee. Verbal and others jointly persuaded a relative of Verbal who allowed Verbal to use their name to apply for new electronic filing privileges for the Fayetteville Street location. In exchange, Verbal and his wife paid the relative $10,000, and the relative had no role in operating NBT, no professional tax experience and no knowledge of the fraud that was occurring at NBT.

But that’s not all. Besides owning a tax preparation firm, Mr. Verbal owned a Medicaid health provider in North Carolina. Mr. Verbal engaged in healthcare fraud, including changing diagnosis codes, inflating the number of clients treated, billing for services not rendered, and faking assessments.

From both schemes, Mr. Verbal used the proceeds to buy luxury goods and possessions, such as his party house in North Raleigh. Many of the items acquired by Mr. Verbal were seized during the investigation, including nearly $766,000 in cash and a 7-carat diamond ring.

As a reminder to anyone who is offered the chance to get a larger refund by paying in cash and having phony items added to his or her tax return: Don’t do it! If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Not only is knowingly participating in such activities a crime, sooner or later you could get a “Dear Soon to be Audited Taxpayer” letter from the IRS.