Justice Department Highlights Ongoing Efforts to Protect the Public and the Fisc from Fraudulent Tax Return Preparers and Tax Scheme Promoters
Justice Department Highlights Ongoing Efforts to Protect the Public and the Fisc from Fraudulent Tax Return Preparers and Tax Scheme Promoters
During this tax-filing season, the Justice Department announced today the results of its ongoing efforts to combat fraudulent tax return preparers and promoters of tax fraud schemes. The department’s Tax Division has an active program to stop fraudulent return preparers and promoters from violating federal tax laws, particularly where the fraudulent activity can harm individual customers or drain the U.S. Treasury.
According to available Internal Revenue Service (IRS) statistics, taxpayers filed approximately 145 million individual income tax returns in 2014, with more than 84 million individuals using a paid tax return preparer. The division’s civil enforcement efforts have been directed against both large-scale return preparation franchises and smaller, independent return preparers and promoters. Last year, the Tax Division obtained permanent injunctions against more than 40 preparers, promoters and businesses operating all over the United States.
“In 2014, the Tax Division continued its pursuit of tax return preparers and promoters who violate the tax laws through abusive schemes and scams, and take advantage of their customers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Tax Division. “The division’s attorneys and staff, along with our colleagues in the IRS, are committed to identifying, enjoining, and where appropriate, prosecuting those individuals who engage in such conduct.”
As in past years, the IRS has again designated return preparer fraud as one of the “Dirty Dozen” tax scams to avoid during return filing season. The Tax Division took action in 2014 against preparers to curb some of the most common types of return preparation fraud:
Your refund should never be deposited directly into a preparer’s bank account.
In United States v. Nevers (E.D. La), the court barred a return preparer from preparing returns after she deposited refunds into her own account and took a cut before remitting the balance to customers, among other things.
Do not use a preparer who is willing to electronically file your return using your last pay stub instead of your W-2.
In United States v. Instant Tax Service, et al. (S.D. Ohio) the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the favorable district court judgment that shut down ITS Financial LLC, because of its pay stub filing and other predatory and fraudulent practices. Before being shut down, the Instant Tax Service franchise claimed it was the fourth largest tax-return-preparer franchisor in the United States. In affirming the district court’s relief, the Sixth Circuit noted “that Congress provided a broad grant of authority” to stop predatory and other harmful tax preparation practices.
Do not use a preparer who fabricates business expenses or deductions, or who claims bogus credits you may not be entitled to claim (i.e. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), child care, education credits).
The Tax Division secured injunctions in many cases, including United States v. Almanza (E.D. Pa.) in which the preparer claimed bogus additional child tax credit on returns and United States v. Branson (S.D. Miss.) in which the preparer claimed false EITCs and education credits. In Branson, more than 99 percent of the 2,400 returns prepared sought a refund, and 97 percent of the returns audited understated the customer’s tax liability by an average of $5,000.
Some other fraudulent schemes and practices that have been stopped through injunction orders entered by federal courts throughout the country include:
• preparing phony tax-return forms with fabricated businesses and income;
• claiming false education and homebuyer credits;
• claiming false and inflated deductions;
• claiming false filing status and false dependents;
• filing tax returns without customer consent or authorization;
• preparing bogus W-2 Forms based on information from employee paystubs;
• falsifying return information to claim inflated EITCs;
• preparing tax returns but failing to sign them as required; and
• defrauding customers by charging exorbitant fees.
Federal courts across the country — in Florida; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Memphis, Tennessee; Fresno, California; Waco and San Antonio, Texas; Montgomery, Alabama; New Orleans; Mississippi, and Georgia — have similarly stopped abusive tax return preparers from continuing their harmful conduct.
In September 2014, the division filed eight injunction suits in Florida to bar Walner G. Gachette, the founder of Orlando-based tax preparation company LBS Tax Services, seven LBS Tax Services franchisees and three LBS Tax Services managers from owning, operating or franchising a tax return preparation business and preparing tax returns for others. These cases also seek disgorgement from the defendants of the tax-preparation fees they charged their customers. According to the complaints, in 2013, LBS Tax Services operated at least 239 stores (192 owned by the named defendants) in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. In February 2015, a federal court in Orlando permanently barred two managers from preparing tax returns for others and from owning or operating a tax return preparation business.
DEA ISSUES NATIONWIDE ALERT ON FENTANYL AS THREAT TO HEALTH AND PUBLIC SAFETY
WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today issued a nationwide alert about the dangers of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues/compounds. Fentanyl is commonly laced in heroin, causing significant problems across the country, particularly as heroin abuse has increased. This alert was issued through the multi-agency El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) to all U.S. law enforcement.
“Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate throughout the United States and represent a significant threat to public health and safety,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Often laced in heroin, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues produced in illicit clandestine labs are up to 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30-50 times more powerful than heroin. Fentanyl is extremely dangerous to law enforcement and anyone else who may come into contact with it. DEA will continue to address this threat by directly attacking the drug trafficking networks producing and importing these deadly drugs. We have lost too many Americans to drug overdoses and we strongly encourage parents, caregivers, teachers, local law enforcement and mentors to firmly and passionately educate others about the dangers of drug abuse, and to seek immediate help and treatment for those addicted to drugs.”
In the last two years, DEA has seen a significant resurgence in fentanyl-related seizures. According to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS), state and local labs reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions in 2014, up from 942 in 2013. In addition, DEA has identified 15 other fentanyl-related compounds.
Fentanyl is a Schedule II narcotic used as an analgesic and anesthetic. It is the most potent opioid available for use in medical treatment – 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. Fentanyl is potentially lethal, even at very low levels. Ingestion of small doses as small as 0.25 mg can be fatal. Its euphoric effects are indistinguishable from morphine or heroin.
DEA has also issued warnings to law enforcement as fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin and accidental inhalation of airborne powder can also occur. DEA is concerned about law enforcement coming in contact with fentanyl on the streets during the course of enforcement, such as a buy-walk, or buy-bust operation.
Fentanyl cases in 2014 have been significant, particularly in the northeast and in California, including one 12 kilogram seizure. The fentanyl from these seizures originated from Mexican drug trafficking organizations.
Globally, fentanyl abuse has increased the past two years in Russia, Ukraine, Sweden and Denmark. Mexican authorities have seizure fentanyl labs there, and intelligence has indicated that the precursor chemicals came from companies in Mexico, Germany, Japan, and China.
Historically, this is not the first time fentanyl has posed such a threat to public health and safety. Between 2005 and 2007, over 1,000 U.S. deaths were attributed to fentanyl – many of which occurred in Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia. The source of that fentanyl was traced to a single lab in Mexico. When that lab was identified and dismantled, the surge ended.
The current outbreak involves not just fentanyl, but also fentanyl analogues. The current outbreak is wider geographically and involves a wide array of individuals including new and experiences abusers.
Some recent examples of the fentanyl surge across the United States:
– New Hampshire State Laboratory recently reported four fentanyl overdose deaths within a two-month period.
– New Jersey saw a huge spike in fentanyl deaths in 2014, reporting as many as 80 in the first six months of the fiscal year.
– Rhode Island and Pennsylvania have also seen huge increases since 2013. In a 15-month period, about 200 deaths were reported in Pennsylvania related to fentanyl.
– In the St. Louis area, based on information provided by medical examiners over a 10-year period, fentanyl was the only drug attributed as a primary death factor in 44 percent of overdose cases.
– In June 2014, DEA New York dismantled a heroin and fentanyl network and arrested the two heads of the organization. These individuals were linked to at least three overdose deaths from heroin and fentanyl they sold.
For more information on fentanyl, visit: http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/fentanyl.pdf
News Cast for March 18th:
Deputies investigate a skimming device placed on a gas pump at the Treasure Island Shell Station this week. The skimmer looks similar to a USV port. Several customers made complaints and the police report said one account number was used to attempt to purchase 4 hundred and 83 dollars in video games, but the transaction failed. Sheriff deputies urge consumers to use cash where they can.
A lawsuit fighting a monkey breeding facility in Hendry County continues. Christopher Berry, an attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund says So Flo ag was secretive and has no contact information on their application. The facility plans to bring in 32 hundred monkeys to breed and sell in lab experiments. Charges of trespass against protestors arrested have been dropped. They worry the monkeys will bring diseases like tuberculosis and ebola.
Many families continue to struggle economically according to the United Way of Florida. ALICE, or asset limited, income constrained, employed, is households that earn more than the poverty level but still not enough to meet basic cost of living. 33 percent of households in Glades County and 34 percent of households in Okeechobee make less than needed to meet basic needs like housing, child care, food, transportation, and health care.
Lars Gilbert with the United Way said most people realize it is tough out there. 45 percent of Florida households make less than they need to meet basic costs of living.
In Okeechobee the average cost of a family of four for housing was 9 hundred and 33 dolars, over 1 thousand for child care, over 6 hundred for food, and nearly 7 hundred for transportation per month, an annual total of over 51 thousand. Glades County costs for a family of four were listed at over 46 thousand annually.
Sports Cast for March 18th:
Atlantic defeated Okeechobee 8-4 at the Lake Worth spring break high school baseball tournament Tuesday. Stefan Leclerc shut out Okeechobee for the first four innings. Paul Jackson had three hits and Mason Adams two hits for the Brahmans who had 10 hits in the game. Zeke Matthews had two runs batted in.
OHS junior varsity boys soccer coach Omar Ayala is thrilled about how well his team did this year. The team lost just twice and showed improvement throughout the year. The varsity team missed out on regional and had a losing record for the first time in several seasons. Ayala predicts many of these JV players can help next year
Moore Haven softball defeated Community School of Naples 5-0 to improve to 9-2 on the season.
On the sports schedule today, OHS softball visits Fort Pierce Westwood with first pitch at 4 pm.
Governor Rick Scott Appoints Two to South Florida Water Management District
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of Clarke Harlow and the reappointment of Frederick “Rick” Barber to the South Florida Water Management District.
Harlow, 34, of Fort Lauderdale, is the president of Harlow Asset Management and Southeast Landscape Management Company LLC. Harlow received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning March 17, 2015, and ending March 1, 2018.
Barber, 68, of Bonita Springs, is the chief executive officer of Agnoli, Barber, and Brundage Inc. He currently serves as the chair of the Big Cypress Basin Board. Barber received his associate’s degree from Edison College and his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 17, 2015, and ending March 1, 2019.
The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Deputies Investigating Suspicious Incident
Osceola County -Osceola County Sheriff’s detectives are investigating a suspicious incident. On March 17, deputies responded to the area of Monterey Road and Brentford Court in Poinciana. Upon arrival, deputies spoke with a 15-year old victim who advised at 3:00 p.m. she was exiting her school bus when an unknown male driving an older, beige truck slowed down and turned around. The driver asked her to “come here” approximately 4 times. Each time she said no, but he continued to follow her as she was walking down the sidewalk. Finally, the driver left the area.
The victim describes the suspect as a black or Hispanic male, approximately 19- years old to mid-twenties with short dreadlocks. He was wearing a black shirt and driving an older model truck with shiny beige paint.
Detectives want to caution the public regarding this incident and encourage residents to report suspicious incidents. Anyone with information is asked to call the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office at (407) 348-2222 or Crimeline at (800) 423-TIPS (8477). Calls made to Crimeline remain anonymous, and tips that lead to the felony arrest of suspects and/or the recovery of stolen property and drugs are eligible for cash rewards of up to $1,000 dollars.
GOV. SCOTT: TAMIAMI TRAIL PROJECT WILL HELP MOVE WATER SOUTH
~DEP Issues Permit for Construction of Important Everglades Project~
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott today announced that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection recently issued a permit to the Department of Interior’s National Park Service, Everglades National Park, for the construction of 2.6 miles of bridges and raised roads along the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) in Miami-Dade County. The project will deconstruct a section of the Tamiami Trail and replace it with a bridge so that water north of the road may flow into the Everglades, providing needed water to the Everglades National Park. This project will result in enhanced movement of water south from Lake Okeechobee.
Governor Rick Scott said, “Restoring the Florida Everglades and protecting Florida’s natural treasures is incredibly important to protect the beauty of our state. The Tamiami Trail project will help move more water south from Lake Okeechobee which directly benefits the Everglades, as well as the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries. On top of completing critical projects, we have proposed a dedicated source of revenue that will provide more than $5 billion for Everglades restoration over the next 20 years. This funding will ensure future generations of Floridians can enjoy our state’s natural beauty.”
The Tamiami Trail currently inhibits water flowing south into Everglades National Park. By constructing bridges, water will be able to flow more naturally to the Park.
DEP Secretary Jon Steverson said, “This is a huge step forward in our efforts to restore the Everglades. Moving water south through the Everglades is critical for wildlife, and keeping it out of the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Estuaries is vital to protecting these important waterbodies.”
Governor Scott has committed up to $30 million per year over three years or $90 million total for this project.
In addition to long term investments, the Department of Environmental Protection is working with the South Florida Water Management District and local partners to take aggressive action on both coasts to improve the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of water in Florida.
Governor Rick Scott’s 2015-2016 “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget provides a total of $150 million for Everglades restoration, including $20 million for Kissimmee River restoration. The “KEEP FLORIDA WORKING” budget also creates a dedicated source of revenue for Everglades restoration that provides more than $670 million for ecosystem restoration over the next four years and more than $5 billion over the next 20 years. This means that during the Governor’s second term alone, South Florida’s families will know the state has the ability to fund its share of the restoration of the Kissimmee River and the construction of the C-43 and C-44 reservoirs – projects that will provide almost 100 billion gallons of storage to protect Florida estuaries
Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Investigation Narrative
On March 3, 2015, at 1837 hours, I Deputy Jonathon Kemp #44, of the
Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, was dispatched to the Shell gas station at
3609 Highway 441 Southeast in reference to a theft complaint.
Upon my arrival I spoke with the owner Kamruddin Mithani. He stated that
when the store opened this morning there was a customer that claimed they had
their credit card information stolen from them at gas pump #5. Shortly after the
one customer made this complaint multiple others made the same one. Kamruddin
could not recall the customer’s names. At this time he said that he unlocked and
opened the pump up and found what he called a “Skimmer” hooked up inside of it.
Kamruddin said that he checks inside the pumps every night before closing and
has never seen a skimmer before until now. A skimmer is what someone hooks up to
the pump in order to steal the credit card information from whomever uses that
I advised to Kamruddin to notify the customers who advised him of the
problem in case they want to report the theft of their credit card information
since the Sheriff’s Office has not had any complaints of it yet. Kamruddin did
advise that I could get the video camera recordings if I needed it since there
are two video cameras on the gas pumps. I told him I would have to come back
with a memory device from the Sheriff’s Department that is big enough to store
that much data. He said that Monday would be fine to come back with the memory
device for the video recordings.
The skimmer device will be entered into evidence and a copy of this
report will be forwarded to Florida Department of Agriculture. I attempted to
make contact with Florida Department of Agriculture but was unable to reach them
during business hours so this will be forwarded to them on Monday (03/16/2015)
when I return to work. This case will be active until I follow up with Kamruddin
and Florida Department of Agriculture on 03/16/2015. END OF REPORT.
Heroes 4 Hope Offers Brings Inspiration To Those In Need (AUDIO INCLUDED)
Thomas Barber spoke at a recent Kiwanis Club of Okeechobee meeting talking about Heroes 4 Hope, an organization he co-founded two years ago. Heroes 4 Hope is a local non-profit group for Okeechobee dedicated to helping local individuals and families struggling with their daily needs due to health issues. Barber is in a two year battle with cancer himself. The group meets at the Big Lake Cancer Center in Okeechobee and those interested in attending should call 532-0137
News Cast for March 17th:
In US District Court, 34 year old Martin Alvarez Moreno of Okeechobee pled guilty to possession of a firearm by an illegal alien and now faces up to 10 years behind bars. Okeechobee deputies say they seized a Marlin rifle from Moreno after a domestic squabble last November 7th. No charges were filed. Moreno tried to retrieve the rifle from the Sheriff on four occasions but could not provide documentation of citizenship. He illegally entered the US crossing the border in Arizona in 2 thousand 3.
A 33 year old Glades county man took some bad news in child support out on his girlfriend, allegedly driving recklessly from Miami to Moore Haven at speeds of 1 hundred miles per hour, not letting the woman out of the vehicle, and later out of his residence. Jason Weaver faces charges of false imprisonment and assault.
The highway patrol identified 64 year old Patrick De Thomas of Port St. Lucie as the victim in Sunday night’s fatal crash on state road 60 near Yeehaw Junction. Charges are pending against another driver, 30 year old Keith Laine of Davenport, Florida.
A fight inside the Okeechobee jail results in the arrest of inmate, 27 year old Charles Suarez for felony battery, allegedly for striking repeatedly, another inmate, Tenelius Garner Friday night.
Storm drains and other drainage improvements will be made in Oak Park after action by the county commission to hire Go Underground Utilities under a near 9 hundred and 15 thousand dollar project. It is part of a stormwater master plan that hopes to improve drainage and prevent flooding there.
County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper was pleased thre large oak trees can be saved.
Sports Cast for March 17th:
Baylee Farless returned an interception 51 yards for a score to lead Okeechobee to a 7-6 victory in flag football over St. Lucie West Centennial Monday. The Lady Brahman defense turned aside three Eagle drives in the red zone in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.
Coach Jeff Whitlock was pleased with how hard his team played in the hot and humid conditions. Dracea Peacock knocked away a desperation pass on the final play for Okeechobee.
Farless pick six occurred in the second quarter and turned the game around.
Okeechobee also won the Junior varsity contest 20-0. Ashlee Hagan caught a touchdown pass and ran for a second score and Jessica Cason caught a touchdown pass for Okeechobee. QB Julia Dupree threw for two scores.
Brahman baseball defeats Spanish River at the Lake Worth tournament 4-2. Kevin Coleman got the win in relief and Jarred Morgan picked up the save. Gabe Greseth and Paul Jackson both had two hits for Okeechobee. Baron Stuart and Coleman added RBIS.
The Brahmans will play again today at the tournament and again Thursday and Friday.
Governor Rick Scott Appoints Randall Maggard to Southwest Florida Water Management District
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott announced the reappointment of Randall Maggard to the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Maggard, 51, of Zephyrhills, is the vice president of Sonny’s Discount Appliances Inc. He currently serves as a member of the Zephyrhills Economic Development Board and previously served as a member of the Coastal River Basin Board. Maggard received his associate’s degree from Pasco-Hernando Community College. He is reappointed for a term beginning March 16, 2015, and ending March 1, 2019.
The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.