A Gaithersburg, Maryland, woman had her initial appearance today on an indictment charging her with ten counts of aiding or assisting in the preparation of false or fraudulent tax returns, one count of mail fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur of the District of Maryland.
“The Department of Justice will prosecute fraudulent tax return preparers and protect honest taxpayers whose identities are ensnared in tax return schemes,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman.
“While most tax return preparers provide excellent service to their clients, unscrupulous return preparers give the industry a black eye. IRS-CI works year round to investigate deceitful return preparers and to protect the American taxpayers’ money and personal identification information,” said Kelly R. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington, D.C. Field Office.
According to the indictment, Maria Espinal owned and operated a tax return preparation business located in Gaithersburg, Maryland. From at least 2012 through 2016, Espinal allegedly prepared and filed fraudulent tax returns on behalf of her taxpayer-clients with both the IRS and the Comptroller of Maryland. To generate a refund to which the client was not entitled, Espinal is alleged to have manipulated and altered Forms W-2 in the names of third parties, without their permission or authority, by replacing the listed employee’s name with Espinal’s client’s name. She would then report the third party’s wages and withholdings as those of her own clients in order to generate a fraudulent federal and state tax refund.
If convicted, Espinal faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison for each count of aiding and assisting in the filing of false returns, 20 years in prison on each count of mail fraud, and a statutory minimum sentence of two years in prison for aggravated identity theft. Espinal also faces potential fines, restitution, and forfeiture.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. Individuals charged in indictments are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Hur thanked Trial Attorney Carl F. Brooker, IV of the Tax Division and Assistant United States Attorney Ray McKenzie, who are prosecuting the case.
Additional information about the Tax Division’s enforcement efforts can be found on the division’s website.
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