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Jonesboro tax preparer guilty of fraud

Agrees to $5.7 million in restitution

ATLANTA — A Jonesboro tax preparer has agreed to pay more than $5.7 million in restitution as part of her guilty plea in U.S. District Court, said officials.

Anita Dixon Ford, 49, pleaded guilty to aiding or assisting in the preparation and filing of false personal income tax returns with the IRS, said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. Prosecutors said the scheme netted Ford millions of dollars.

“By filing thousands of false tax returns this defendant caused the U.S. Treasury to issue millions of dollars in fraudulent refunds to her clients,” said Yates. “Her scheme was stopped when she prepared a false tax return for an undercover IRS agent. This conviction should make abusive return preparers think twice before attempting to rob the U.S. Treasury.”

Yates said evidence and testimony showed that Ford owned and operated Georgia Peach Financial and Fast Tax Service between 2004 and 2012. The business provided personal income tax preparation services.

During that time Ford prepared and electronically filed thousands of Form 1040 individual income tax returns with the IRS that intentionally misstated her clients’ income in order to generate fraudulent refunds, said Yates.

“In particular, Ford made up fake side businesses with fake income and fake expenses, and then attached false Schedule Cs — profit or loss from business — to the clients’ tax returns showing such made up income and expenses,” she said. “This had the effect of off-setting her clients’ income tax liability from their real salaries, as reflected in W2 forms issued by their real employers, generating false credits and refunds.”

Federal agents got wind of the alleged scheme and sent an undercover officer to the business in March 2011 posing as a taxpayer needing a return prepared. Ford began preparing a tax return in the agent’s cover identity, based on a W2 form in the cover identity, and informed the agent there was a balance of $200 due the IRS.

“In truth, the agent would have been due a refund of almost $400,” said Yates. “Ford then created a fictitious Form Schedule C for a fake beauty salon business, with $30,000 in fake business expenses, generating a fraudulent refund of over $4,000, and e-filed the completed tax return with the IRS.”

Ford charged a fee of $510 to prepare and e-file the return. She did not provide a copy of the tax return to the agent or review it with the agent before e-filing it.

IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot said such schemes are taken seriously and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“At the IRS, protecting taxpayer money is a matter we take extremely seriously,” she said. “An integral part of the agency’s mission involves detecting and catching fraudulent refund claims. The message this case sends is that participation in refund fraud schemes does not pay and those who do will be prosecuted. Additionally, taxpayers who receive fraudulent refunds, whether knowingly or not, are responsible for repaying the money.”

Ford’s schemes netted fraudulent refunds ranging from several thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, said Yates, with at least one of more than $30,000.

“As part of her plea agreement with the United States, Ford agreed that she is responsible for between $2.5 and $7 million in losses to the IRS,” said Yates.

Ford pleaded guilty to both counts of a two-count criminal information filed against her Oct. 4. The charges each carry a maximum sentence of three years, for a total of six years in federal prison, and a fine of up to $250,000 on each count.

Also, as part of the plea agreement, Ford has agreed to pay $5.73 million in restitution to the United States Treasury. The sentencing has not yet been scheduled.