Though tax fraud schemes are common, the indictment of 55 people in a single case is not. In early October 2011, a federal grand jury indicted 55 business owners and customers of two southern California businesses, as well as the attorneys, tax preparers and other professionals working with them, in one of the largest tax fraud cases ever seen.
Through two companies, Old Quest Foundation and De la Fuente and Ramirez and Associates, the defendants are accused fraud against the government, seeking around $270 million in fraudulent tax returns. De la Fuente and Ramirez allegedly made a false claim of $80 million in withheld taxes, asking for more than $19 million in tax refunds. Old Quest’s tax forms reported more than $1 billion in withheld income tax and asked for over $250 million in refunds.
The companies held seminars at which speakers claiming to be attorneys, accountants and former IRS agents told participants the U.S. was bankrupt and owned by Britain. Speakers claimed that tax refunds were available through secret government accounts. Participants could sign up with Old Quest for access to these secret accounts for a mere $10,000 and a portion of the fraudulently obtained returns. De la Fuente customers were charged a discount rate of only $2,500.
Most of the 55 defendants in what the government dubbed “Operation Stolen Treasures” are charged with conspiracy and/or making false claims against the United States. A conviction for conspiracy to defraud the United States carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. A five-year statutory maximum sentence for each false claim follows a conviction for false, fictitious or fraudulent claims against the United States.
When tied to a company, tax fraud and conspiracy are considered white collar crimes. Prosecutors frequently charge these crimes as felonies. Individuals facing these types of charges will need the experience of Riverside white collar crime attorneys to build their defense.
The federal government takes false claims and tax fraud extremely seriously. If you or a loved one has been charged with such an offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation, your options and your rights.