Daily Court Reporter - News Three charged with filing $1.9 million in false tax returns
Three charged with filing $1.9 million in false tax returns
A trio of Columbus tax-return preparers has been charged with filing false tax returns and defrauding the United States of nearly $2 million. Two of the three defendants pleaded guilty in federal court today.
Benjamin C. Glassman, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, and William Cheung, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation, announced the case.
According to court documents, Quiana Mathews, 38, of Montgomery, Ala.; Virginia Earnest, 41, of Conway, Ark.; and Barbara Huffman, 56, of Montgomery, Ala. operated a seasonal tax business in Columbus under the name GQ’s Tax Pros LLC.
Mathews was arraigned on March 20, 2019, in federal court in Columbus and Earnest and Huffman today pleaded guilty.
According to court documents, from 2012 through 2016, the defendants filed more than 1,200 returns claiming more than $5.3 million in refunds.
Specifically, 100 percent of the returns they filed claimed a refund, approximately 93 percent claimed the Earned Income Credit and approximately 75 percent claimed Schedule C self-employment income or expenses.
The defendants filed returns with false Schedule C information in order to qualify taxpayers for the Earned Income Credit. The Earned Income Credit is a tax credit ranging from approximately $400 to $6,100, which is available to low-income taxpayers who have earned income within a certain limited range. Because the credit is refundable, taxpayers who qualify for the credit can receive a refund even if they have little or no tax withholdings.
Some returns also claimed fictitious dependents to generate tax benefits.
“Our tax system depends on the honesty of filers and preparers,” said U.S. Attorney Glassman. “As tax season continues, let’s keep in mind that willfully manipulating tax filings is fraud against the United States. That’s a federal crime that the IRS will investigate and we will prosecute.”
Mathews, Earnest and Huffman were each charged with conspiring to defraud the United States through false claims, which is a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
According to Huffman’s plea, more than 80% of the refunds generated by returns she prepared were due to fraud, resulting in nearly $237,000 in tax loss.
Likewise, more than half of the refunds Earnest generated by returns she prepared were due to fraud, resulting in more than $94,000 in tax loss. The total tax loss caused by the trio was more than $1.9 million.
As part of their pleas, Huffman and Earnest have agreed to pay back the tax losses in restitution.
Mathews has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial on July 16, 2019.
U.S. Attorney Glassman commended the investigation of this case by IRS Criminal Investigation and Assistant United States Attorney Peter Glenn-Applegate, who is representing the United States in this case.
About the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio
Our mission is to protect and serve the citizens of the Southern District of Ohio through the ethical, vigorous and impartial enforcement of the laws of the United States, and in so doing to defend the national security, improve the safety and quality of life in our communities, protect the public funds and financial assets of the United States, maintain a courteous and professional working environment, and, with skill and integrity, seek to do justice in every matter
We are the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, one of 94 United States Attorney’s Offices in the country. We are a part of the Department of Justice. Our District is comprised of 48 counties in the southern half of the state.
We represent the interests of the United States, both criminal and civil, in federal court. It is our responsibility to enforce federal criminal laws. We work to prevent terrorism and promote the nation’s security. We are committed to preventing crime, enforcing federal laws, and representing the rights and interests of the American people. We strive to ensure the fair and efficient administration of justice for all Americans.
We prosecute those individuals and organizations that violate federal criminal statutes. We work with a multitude of federal, state, and local agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Park Service, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service, The Ohio Highway Patrol, and multitude of local law enforcement agencies. We prosecute a wide-variety of offenses including domestic and foreign terrorism; child pornography and exploitation; civil rights violations; bank robbery and other violent crimes; firearms offenses; drug trafficking; health care fraud; immigration violations; public corruption; tax evasion; mail, bank and wire fraud; environmental offenses; and identity theft.
We also represent the United States in civil litigation, affirmative and defensive. As such, we sue individuals or entities who have violated federal civil laws. We also defend the interests of the United States when it, or one of its departments, agencies, or employees is sued, and we defend federal programs and agency actions.
We collect monies owed to the United States from forfeiture, restitution, and fines imposed as a part of the judgment in federal cases. We also pursue collection of civil debts owed to the United States, including student, small business, housing, and farm loans. Finally, we represent the interests of federal agencies in bankruptcy court.
Our district covers the bottom half of the state of Ohio.
Our district contains three staffed offices in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton. The Columbus office is the headquarters of our District and is the largest, followed by Cincinnati then Dayton.
Date Published: April 15, 2019