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Sisters, one from Trussville, arrested on federal tax fraud charges

By Gary Lloyd

BIRMINGHAM — Federal authorities today arrested two sisters on charges that they worked together in their Taxes N More business in Tarrant to prepare fraudulent tax returns for themselves and others, often falsely claiming a credit for first-time homebuyers, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and IRS, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot.

A federal grand jury indicted Lugenia L. “Gigi” Conner, 31, of Trussville, and Kaneshia L. “Kiki” Conner-Goodgame, 34, of Birmingham, in late March on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States by obstructing and defeating collection of income taxes by the Internal Revenue Service. The indictment also charges both sisters, individually, with assisting in the preparation and presentation of false and fraudulent returns for the 2008 tax year, and with making and filing false returns for themselves for 2008. The indictment was sealed until both women were arrested.

“Tax return preparers who concoct schemes to collect inflated refunds are stealing from the U.S. Treasury and cheating the millions of hard-working Americans who pay their due share of taxes each year,” Vance said. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work with the IRS to prosecute tax fraud and protect the sanctity and integrity of the tax system.”

Hyman-Pilot said as filing season comes to an end, the arrests should send a message that IRS Criminal Investigation will continue to enforce laws that protect the integrity of the tax system.

“Refund fraud is not a victimless crime and it affects everyone who pays taxes,” Hyman-Pilot said. “Honest taxpayers who file accurate returns can be assured that the government will pursue the individuals who attempt to defraud the United States tax system.”

According to the March indictment, Conner and Conner-Goodgame conducted their scheme as follows:

The sisters jointly owned and operated Taxes N More, where they worked together to obtain inflated refunds for their clients in 2009 by falsifying information submitted on clients’ 2008 returns. The sisters claimed the First Time Home Buyer’s Credit of up to $7,900 on returns they prepared for other taxpayers, knowing those taxpayers weren’t entitled to the credit. The women also prepared third-party tax returns claiming itemized deductions or business expenses that clients neither had provided information for, nor were entitled to receive.

Conner faces five counts of assisting in the preparation of fraudulent returns for falsely claiming a total of $93,683 in deductions and credits on returns she prepared for five different taxpayers. Conner-Goodgame faces two counts of the same charge for falsely claiming a total of $15,400 with the First Time Home Buyer’s Credit for two tax clients.

Conner and Conner-Goodgame also each are charged with creating and submitting 2008 personal tax returns on which they claimed the homebuyers’ credit, knowing they were not entitled to that deduction.

The Taxes N More business had a dramatic increase in the number of returns prepared and the amount of refunds claimed from the 2007 to the 2008 tax year, according to the indictment. For the 2007 tax year, it says the sisters’ business prepared 337 third-party tax returns, claiming $1.3 million in refunds. For the 2008 tax year, Taxes N More prepared 670 third-party returns, claiming $3.5 million in refunds.

IRS Criminal Investigation investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Wick is prosecuting.

The public is reminded that an indictment is only a charge and defendants are presumed innocent. It’s the government’s responsibility to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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