A federal judge in Maryland has sentenced a 45-year-old Baltimore County woman to seven years in prison for identity theft and filing fraudulent income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. A jury returned guilty verdicts on 14 counts of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and filing false tax returns on May 22.
Prosecutors were able to convince the jury that the woman, who ran a home-based tax preparation business, filed hundreds of tax returns with the IRS between January 2009 and March 2013. They submitted evidence showing that the woman not only manipulated the figures to increase the size of refunds, but she also arranged for refunds to be deposited into her banking account instead of having them sent to the taxpayers involved.
The woman was also convicted of purchasing the confidential information of people who were not her clients in order to submit more false tax returns. The jury was shown tax documents revealing that she claimed to have earned only $152,100 from her tax preparation business in 2011, but they also saw bank records showing that more than $1 million was deposited in her bank account during the time in question. Prosecutors also introduced evidence of the woman’s lavish spending in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and various amusement parks.
Prosecutors are required to share the evidence they plan to present to a jury with criminal defense attorneys during a process known as discovery. When presented with strong evidence in a tax crimes case, a defense attorney may encourage their client to consider entering into a negotiated plea agreement instead of taking their chances in court. Fraud and embezzlement cases can be quite complex and difficult for juries to follow, which is why prosecutors will sometimes agree to reduce penalties significantly for a speedy and successful resolution even when conviction seems likely.