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Baton Rouge women charged defrauding IRS for $1.4 million

Decades of prison time and tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties are punishments levied for tax crimes. A federal tax fraud or tax evasion charge has the potential to ruin or destabilize families, professional and social reputations and finances. Without a rock-solid criminal defense strategy, a tax error conviction can be as devastating as conviction for a purposeful crime.

Federal prosecutors filed recently filed a slew of tax-related charges against five women from the Baton Rouge metro. The defendants are facing prison for up to 40 years and fines as high as $2 million.

Prosecutors said the women collectively filed over 1,000 fake tax returns using stolen identities and falsified information to collect over $1.4 million in refunds. The government claims the women were directly involved in filing bogus tax claims or, in one case, permitting unearned refunds to be deposited in an account she controlled.

Among the serious allegations levied against the individuals were ID theft charges, aggravated identity theft, fraudulent tax return filings and wire fraud. A Baker defendant accused of falsifying W-2 documents and returns through her tax preparation business could suffer the greatest punishment.

The charges are based on federal investigators' findings from tax returns filed over the last few years. The defendants allegedly collected refunds for hundreds of taxpayers through debit cards or account deposits. A Plaquemine defendant reportedly submitted tax claims for over $660,000.

Reports did not say how the Internal Revenue Service determined the tax returns were fraudulent.

Louisiana residents charged with tax evasion or fraud are accused of deception, but many tax errors are generated by confusion. Tax codes that apply to individuals and businesses can be complex and difficult to interpret. Honest mistakes are not crimes. In other words, charges can be dropped when the defense shows a mistake was not a willful act intended to cheat the government.

Source: nola.com, "U.S. Attorney's Office charge five women in Baton Rouge area on tax, identify fraud schemes" Quincy Hodges, Sep. 16, 2013

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