By Gary Lloyd
BIRMINGHAM — A federal judge Thursday sentenced a Trussville woman to six months in prison and six months home confinement for preparing fraudulent tax returns for herself and others in a Tarrant business she ran with her sister, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and IRS, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Veronica Hyman-Pillot.
U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon sentenced Lugenia L. “Gigi” Conner, 32, on five counts of preparing fraudulent tax returns and one count of making a false return. Conner pleaded guilty to the charges in January. The judge ordered Conner to pay $56,908 in restitution to the IRS. She must report to prison June 12.
“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-Pillot said refund fraud is an “egregious offense that affects honest taxpayers.”
“As we embark upon the close of filing season, I hope this sentence sends a message that the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division has a zero-tolerance policy for refund fraud,” Hyman-Pillot said. “Anyone who chooses to play a role in this crime will be investigated and ultimately prosecuted.”
A federal grand jury last year indicted Conner and her sister, Kaneshia L. “Kiki” Conner-Goodgame, 35, of Birmingham, on charges that they worked together in their Taxes ‘N More business to prepare fraudulent tax returns for the 2008 tax year, often falsely claiming a credit for first-time homebuyers.
Conner-Goodgame pleaded guilty in January to two counts of preparing fraudulent tax returns and one count of making a false return. She is scheduled for sentencing May 27.
Both sisters acknowledged in plea agreements with the government that they owned and operated Taxes ‘N More and worked there as tax preparers, inflating 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 ,900 on returns they prepared for other taxpayers, knowing those taxpayers were not 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. Both women also assisted taxpayers with the illegal practice of buying and selling dependents.
Conner and Conner-Goodgame also created and submitted 2008 personal tax returns on which they claimed the homebuyers’ credit, knowing they were not entitled to that deduction.
IRS Criminal Investigation investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amanda Wick and Robin Beardsley Mark are prosecuting.
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