MANHATTAN (CN) – Twenty-six tax preparers found a welter of ways to defraud the government, federal prosecutors said Thursday in unsealing seven complaints. Among other things, prosecutors said, the defendants used identities stolen from children to claim them as dependents, and used dead people’s Social Security numbers to file returns for income the dead people earned, then pocketed the money.
The defendants also claimed business losses for businesses that did not exist, and filing returns using Puerto Ricans’ stolen Social Security numbers – easy pickings because Puerto Ricans are issued Social Security numbers but do not have to file federal tax returns.
The top paper shufflers were defendants Kevin Vaden, Lester Morrison, Gary Hanna, Joy David and Paulette Bullock, who claimed $29 million in refunds for nearly 8,000 people – 70 percent of which were bogus, prosecutors said.
James Moses Asare claimed $4 million in refunds from 1,500 returns, and Eugene Osuala claimed about $2 million a year in returns, for 8 years, according to the complaints.
Josefina Guzman, a solo practitioner, racked up $6 million in returns, specializing in dead and living Puerto Ricans, prosecutors said.
Prince Koree claimed $2.8 million in returns; he is one of six defendants still at large, the Justice Department said.
Four of the defendants were previously charged; 16 were arrested and in custody Thursday.