El Dorado Hills Woman Sentenced to 3.5 Years in Prison for Tax Refund Scheme Involving More than $1.8 Million in Illegitimate Refunds
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. sentenced Barbara Antonucci, an unlicensed tax preparer, today to three years and six months in prison and ordered to pay $1,895,833 in restitution for conspiring to file false claims and filing false claims, United States Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
According to court documents, Antonucci and her co-conspirator, Sherry Taggart, 56, of El Dorado Hills, prepared tax returns for clients seeking to maximize their refunds from the Internal Revenue Service. In 2008, Antonucci began a scheme to obtain false refunds by preparing and filing false claims on behalf of clients with the IRS. After May 2010, Taggart joined Antonucci’s scheme and together the two conspired to prepare and file hundreds of false claims with the IRS between June 2012 and March 2014, seeking refunds totaling approximately $1.4 million. As a result of the conspiracy, the IRS issued more than $757,000 in illegitimate refunds. In total, including the period in which Antonucci operated the scheme by herself, the IRS issued more than $1.8 million in illegitimate refunds from more than $2.5 million illegitimate claims filed during the scheme. On August 19, 2016, Antonucci pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false claims and filing false claims.
The fraudulent returns Taggart and Antonucci prepared and caused to be filed reported false wages and dependents for their clients and, in many cases, qualified the clients for the refundable Earned Income Credit (EIC) when the client’s true wages or family situation would have qualified the client for no credit or a lower credit. Most of the fraudulent returns listed wages associated with self-employment not documented by a Form W-2, such as “housekeeper.” The defendants obtained the names, social security numbers, and other personal identifying information of minors and falsely listed those minors as dependents on tax returns for clients who were unrelated to those minors. Taggart and Antonucci also filed false claims on their own behalf. They filed the false federal tax returns with the IRS through the mail and via the internet from Sacramento, Yuba and Placer Counties.
“As we approach tax filing season next month it is important that this sentence represents adverse consequences for those tax return preparers who file false tax returns for their clients,” said Michael T. Batdorf, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “It is important for tax return preparers to follow the law and guidance set forth by IRS on preparing tax returns. It is also very important for taxpayers to review their tax return with their tax return preparer to verify it has been prepared correctly before it is filed with the IRS and ask questions when they do not understand what has been prepared.”
San Francisco Division Inspector in Charge Rafael Nunez of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service stated, “We are working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners in law enforcement to arrest and prosecute those responsible for complex Identity Fraud Schemes and to protect the public and their personal information from theft.”
Antonucci was ordered to surrender to begin serving her sentence on February 17, 2017. Taggart is scheduled to be sentenced on December 9, 2016.
This case is the product of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service‑Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney André M. Espinosa is prosecuting the case.