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Prosecutors Send Warning that Tax Fraud is Punishable with Hefty Fines and Prison Time

With the deadline for filing income tax returns rapidly approaching, R. Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, and Matthew D. Line, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, Charlotte Field Office (IRS-CI), jointly announce recent tax fraud prosecutions and sentencings, and deliver a powerful warning to those who are thinking about breaking the law by committing tax crimes.

“As April 15th nears, tax cheats are put on notice: our office works diligently to investigate and prosecute those who try to evade their federal tax obligations,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “Taxes help pay for important services our communities rely on. Tax cheats steal from the government and increase the burden on honest taxpayers who file their taxes on time and pay the share they owe. Our experienced tax prosecutors and IRS criminal investigators work hand-in-hand to uncover tax fraud and hold tax criminals accountable for their actions.”

“As the 2018 tax filing season comes to an end, special agents of the IRS-Criminal Investigation will continue to work diligently to pursue those individuals and corporations who make deliberate decisions to not comply with the tax laws. America’s tax system relies heavily on voluntary self-assessments of what tax is owed and when individuals or corporations falsify those self-assessments, the citizens of Western North Carolina, can rest assured our agents in the Charlotte Field Office, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will prosecute them. Prosecution of these cases supports the overall IRS compliance goals and enhances voluntary compliance,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Matthew D. Line.

Tax Preparer Indicted for Tax Fraud

Aminta A. Smith, 31, of Charlotte, made her initial appearance today on federal charges of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns and filing a false tax return. The indictment alleges that, between 2012 and 2015, Smith prepared and submitted to the IRS more than 1,300 tax returns, many of which included false information, such as false income and false education expenses, which qualified filing individuals for inflated tax refunds. The indictment

further alleges that the Charlotte-area tax return preparer kept a portion of the tax refund as her fee. For tax years 2011 to 2015, Smith also filed U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns that did not include much of the income she received for preparing tax returns, which resulted in Smith receiving large tax refunds. Smith faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison for each charge of aiding and abetting in the preparation of false tax returns and three years in prison for filing a false tax return. (3:18-cr-107).

Other Tax Prosecutions

In the last year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of IRS-CI, has investigated and prosecuted numerous individuals for criminal tax violations. Tax enforcement prosecutions include:

Todd Barry Greenburg (5:17-cr-53). On March 6, 2018, Greenburg, 46, a resident of Mooresville, N.C. and co-owner of a Charlotte-area car dealership, pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion. As part of his guilty plea, Greenburg admitted that, for tax years 2010 through 2015, he attempted to evade a large part of the income tax he owed by: concealing and attempting to conceal from the IRS the nature and extent of his assets and their location; placing funds and properties in the names of others; and making false statements to IRS agents. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Greenburg’s sentencing date has not been set.

Peter Gjuraj (5:17-cr-31). On September 5, 2017, Gjuraj, 50, of Mooresville, was sentenced to eight months in prison. Gjuraj operated the Blue Parrot, a restaurant in Lake Norman, and concealed significant personal earnings from the IRS. For tax years 2012 through 2014, the Blue Parrot earned additional gross receipts totaling approximately $2,793,873 that Gjuraj failed to report on his individual income tax returns filed with the IRS. As a result of the unreported gross receipts, Gjuraj had additional taxable income substantially in excess of that reported on his tax years 2012 through 2014. The additional federal tax due on this unreported income was a total of $319,974.92.

Matthew Moretz (5:17-cr-3). On August 8, 2017, Moretz, 32, of Taylorsville, N.C., and owner of a recycling business, was sentenced to six months in prison. Court records show that Moretz concealed significant personal earnings from the business from the IRS. As a result of unreported income of $529,622.44, Moretz had additional tax due and owing of approximately $115,409 from 2010 to 2013.

Priscilla Lydia Turner (1:16-cr-133). On August 17, 2017, Turner, 36, of Greenville, South Carolina, was sentenced to 24 months in prison and was ordered to pay $204,773 in restitution for her role in a stolen identity refund fraud scheme. Turner misused her access to a computer system to obtain personal identifying information (PII) of inmates detained at the Greenville County Detention Center. Turner passed the stolen PII of inmates to her co-conspirators, who used that information to file fraudulent tax returns and to obtain fraudulent tax refunds. Turner’s co-conspirators were previously sentenced in connection to the tax fraud scheme. Carmichael Hill was sentenced to 75 months in prison; Reginald Knowles was sentenced to 70 months in prison; and Senita Dill was sentenced to 324 months in prison.

Quandella Walker (3:17-cr-343). On December 14, 2017, Walker, 29, of Charlotte, was indicted for aiding and assisting in the filing of false tax returns for others as well as filing false tax returns in her own name. Through her tax preparation business, Quandella Tax Services, Walker prepared tax returns for clients that contained false income information, to enable her clients to fraudulently qualify for inflated tax refunds. Walker is also charged filing false tax returns for her own name.

Federal penalties for each count of conviction of tax crimes range from a maximum of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for failure to file a tax return, false withholding exemptions, and delivering or disclosing false tax documents, to a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy to defraud with respect to false refund claims. Other penalties include a mandatory term of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine for aggravated identity theft charges, three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for obstructing or impeding an investigation and filing or preparing a false tax return, and a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for tax evasion, failure to pay taxes, conspiracy to commit a tax offense or conspiracy to defraud.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the IRS remind tax payers to exercise caution during tax season to protect themselves against a wide range of tax schemes ranging from identity theft to return preparer fraud. Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice to shutdown scams and to prosecute the criminals behind them. The IRS has issued its annual “Dirty Dozen” which lists common tax scams that taxpayers may encounter, particularly during filing season. Taxpayers are urged look out for, and to avoid, the following common schemes:

  • Phishing
  • Phone Scams
  • Identity Theft
  • Return Preparer Fraud
  • Fake Charities
  • Inflated Refund Claims
  • Excessive Claims for Business Credits
  • Falsely Padding Deductions on Returns
  • Falsifying Income To Claim Credits
  • Abusive Tax Shelters
  • Frivolous Tax Arguments
  • Abusive Tax Shelters
  • Offshore Tax Avoidance

Education is the best way to avoid these common schemes. To learn more about the Dirty Dozen scams and for help with recognizing and avoiding abusive tax schemes, the IRS offers educational material at www.irs.gov. Suspected tax fraud can be reported to the IRS using Form 3949-A found on the IRS.gov website.